“Preparation for What Is Known”
Sunday, December 10, 2017
Second Sunday in Advent
Rev. Mark M. Vickers
St. Timothy’s UMC
Mark 1:1-8 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Proclamation of John the Baptist
1 The beginning of the good news[a] of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.[b] 2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,[c]
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,[d] who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
4 John the baptizer appeared[e] in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with[f] water; but he will baptize you with[g] the Holy Spirit.” __________________________________________________________
I just love it when biblical writers don’t use proper grammar! It gives me some hope that all of the written world is not perfect. Yet, this text this morning on the Second Sunday of Advent is not a narrative, it’s a proclamation. It’s a proclamation about not only Jesus, but the “one who is to come before him.” It is the preparation proclamation spoken about Jesus through the prophets. It’s a mix of prophetic words from both Isaiah and Micah.
The writer of Mark brings us to a point where we have to preach “The Good News,” that sounds like “Bad News” as one commentator put it. It is a salvation story of God’s people where the Old Testament is morphed into the Gospel Good News.
It is so important to hear this proclamation as we move into Advent, as we move into a higher degree of preparation for the birth of Jesus. We are confronted with the fact that this baby is going to bring us salvation and Good News even when we don’t want to hear, or are more likely to be “too busy” to even hear it, or recognize it in our lives. It’s sort of like “life gets in the way of being saved.” We get busy in our hurried everyday life and cast off John’s call to be prepared, to ready ourselves for what is to come. Again, it is one of those texts that demands we listen with what I call “our adult ears.” It doesn’t really give us much opportunity to think about growing up or what is to come, there is no angelic fluffy baby Jesus.
I have often called this the “Ricky Bobby” text. In the movie Taladega Nights, the fictional NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby is infatuated with the “Baby Jesus.” While his wife pushes him during a time of family prayer to realize that there is more to life than “baby Jesus.” This text, Advent as it may be with John the Baptizer quickly entering the mix, is truly a call to focus on what is to be done with the adult Jesus and what Jesus has to offer us in life.
The writer of the Gospel of Mark is a smart individual. He takes us through a time warp of what God through Jesus has to offer us. First, he is truly concerned with the adult Jesus and the fact that we don’t need to linger a long time on the baby Jesus. Second, we need to focus on the Holy Spirit, that which is beyond Jesus and the fact that there is more to come; the Past which is Israel, the Present that is Jesus and the Future which is the Holy Spirit!
Mark leaves little un-turned of the salvation story that plays out in our lives. Yet, one of the strong notions that John puts forth to us as the history unfolds, is the fact that “we really want all the credit for this salvation history.” When in fact it is John the Baptist’s proclamation of baptism by water that sets the stage for the work of baptism in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
It’s interesting how this story runs a close parallel to the nature of our own lives. Leaders, politicians, pastors, have a tendency to think that “it was never right” until I got here! Our society, those who typically lead, often loses credit and to our history, from whence did we come? One of the key parts of this text as an Advent passage is that we can’t do this alone. We have to do it in and with the process of the Holy Spirit! Mark starts with history, in the fact he tells the story of the sending of the “Messenger” ahead of the people to prepare you for what is to come. John the Baptist looked at the future while holding on to the action of the present; John was proclaiming the work of a
servant and not a manager. John knew, as the Gospel writer of Mark knew , “it’s messy to proclaim the truth!” Just look at the garb that John the Baptizer wore! The Ewel Gibbons of the New Testament! (For those of you who remember our first ‘Granola Man’).
We are reminded that “waiting on the savior” is humbling. “It forces us to admit that the world does not operate on our schedule!”
We have to prepare, but let Christ do the rest. This Gospel call on the Second Sunday in Advent tells us a story about a God who breaks into our messy lives and brings hope to our messy impatient lives. Yet, from the beginning, we are proclaimers of this message as well. We are called to bring those around us with us to the manger to prepare for the “baby Jesus” that will ultimately grow into the adult Jesus, who all along the way proclaims salvation for all.
That my friends is our Advent command for today. To be willing to be messy like John the Baptizer and to pave the way for people to come to the working of God in Christ in order to be enveloped in the love and grace of Jesus Christ.
AMEN & AMEN