2nd Sunday in Advent
December 4, 2011
“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Good news. Is there any good news these days. It seems to me that the world is full of contention and finger-pointing, defensiveness and deep cynicism. For those who are jobless or underemployed or otherwise facing the financial constraints of a recession, good news is hard to come by. For those with loved-ones overseas in a dangerous war and those who are fighting to get some semblance of normal life back after crippling injuries, it’s hard to hear good news. For those who face frightening illness that can rob them and their families of everything they value, good news isn’t easy. Even for those who are just doing the normal stuff, life is frustrating and uncertain. The Gospel is good news for my bad situation, said a former professor. It is God reaching out through the ages to tell me that nothing in this world has the power to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ, and that only God still has the power to bring life from what surely looks like death to me.
Mark, the evangelist, will tell us how that comes about in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God, as he weaves his narrative. He begins by going backward. He stands with John the Baptizer, who is standing in the footsteps of Isaiah, the prophet. Together they are looking forward to the promises of God’s intervention in the world. In Isaiah’s day, God’s people in exile awaited their salvation in the form of a return to the land that was their promise of God’s favor. In John’s day, God’s people were crushed by Roman domination, waiting for God to come with power to overthrow their oppression. Isaiah offers words of comfort, showing God as the One who will finally accomplish their return with power to reduce to mountains to a pathway. Power that is so gentle that it is like a shepherd guarding mother sheep and carrying the lambs. Mark claims both that power and that gentleness in his good news of Jesus, the Christ.
Mark gives us John as a figure right out of the Hebrew Bible. Dressed in skins, eating from the desert, and pointing to the intervention to come. Perhaps he was an “Occupy Wall Street” kinda guy. Speaking out against the norm, trying to wake people up to the way that their culture had co-opted their souls. The new age of God is about to begin, he shouted, are you ready to meet your maker?
How about you? Are you ready to meet your maker? You can’t have a God who comes with power, without having a God who requires you to be perfect. The God of Heaven and Earth is scary in Power and Glory, ready to destroy all evil, including the petty evils that we are part of just because we are human. Could you meet that God?
John calls us all to be prepared by recognizing our failures, our imperfections, our inability to ever be fully all that is good. We are finally unable to put God before all our own needs and to love those around us as we want to be loved. John points to the One who will be God among us. The One who comes with power. This evangelist doesn’t give us the sweet baby, he gives us a grown-up Jesus who routs demons and pulls people back to life. His coming ended the power of human sin to leave us in despair, and began a world lighted by hope. In Jesus resurrection, we see that every one of God’s promises is true. As we prepare for the coming of Christ, we remember that he will come again, finally bringing the perfection of heaven here to dwell with us.
John the Baptizer points beyond Jesus, the Christ, to the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is this Spirit which dwells with us now in the world we share. This is the Spirit that Jesus promises to us. This is the Spirit that hears our confession and gives us the peace of being carried in God’s arms. This Spirit calls us to be the proclaimers of God’s good news as we know it, as it has entered our lives.
In this season of Advent we wait in the dark for the light that comes. We wait for the dawn of the world to break upon us once again, to surprise us with all that God is doing in and among us. In the dark, we are being invited into God’s future. We are preparing to gather ourselves into new vision and new ministry, expecting that God’s Spirit will lead us forward. What is in store for us as we look into the New Year? How will we greet new opportunity and new challenge to be God’s people right here, right now? We stand with Isaiah and John the Baptizer looking toward Jesus, the fulfillment of God’s promises of salvation. And we stand with Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, looking toward the future of the world God longs to see – where no one is thirsty, no one will grieve, where the face of God itself will be our light. We wait in between Jesus’ coming and Jesus’ coming again, confessing our sins, and asking what we are invited to do to bring in God’s kingdom. May your days of waiting be blessed. May the presence of God’s Spirit bring quiet amidst the frenzy. May the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, prepare your heart for future God has prepared for us.
Now may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus our Lord.