The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” ’, John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 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. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 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. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’
From the first words of Mark’s gospel, we know that something is coming. Even if we’ve grown up with these words, they come to us in a new way this day. With Mark’s announcement of the beginning of the good news we know that we are encountering God’s messenger. The gospel writer grounds what is with what has been with us along: As written in the prophet Isaiah…and through ancient writings the gospel writer introduces us to John the baptizer. John is described as a man whose ministry takes out and away; we are told that people traveled through the countryside to find him. And now as we turn to the baptizer, we realize that our Advent’s journey goes through the wilderness.
The baptizer attracted quite a following. As those who lived centuries ago, we, too are yearning for a deeper connection. We are drawn closer and closer to the One who created and is creating still. John proclaimed: “One is coming who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.”
There’s a Buddhist saying that fits this image of John’s role in this Advent story: “Truth has nothing to do with words. Truth can be likened to the bright moon in the sky. Words, in this case, can be likened to a finger. The finger can point to the moon’s location. However, the finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger…”
The baptizer knows that the Promised One is coming. His focus is on watching for the One who will bring justice and healing. His message is for all to repent and turn again to God. John is the finger pointing to the moon.
Messengers companion us through Advent. Signs are given reminding us to pay attention. Lessons are to be learned, mercy and grace are to be shown. And as we journey on, we remember that God’s lovingkindness is with us all along the way.
Breath Prayer: “seeing” “beyond”
Living and Loving God, as we continue through these Advent days may we be awake to the messengers companioning us. Remind us that we are not alone. Especially when crossing through the wilderness, messengers come and show us what is next. Holy One, with each step our grateful hearts draw closer to your loving presence. Amen.
Wow and thanks, Beth Locker for today's pictures
believes in beginnings and beginning again, in holding on and letting go, in God's presence as close as our next breath. Lesley works as a hospice Bereavement Coordinator in Atlanta. She is an ordained minister in the UCC and has just completed her second book, "Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon in 29 Days" (to be released early in 2015).