"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.”” Mark 1:1-8 NRSV
Well, Christmas is over. No more Christmas music which I found great solace in
this year. I’ll have to wait for Christmas in July for my Hallmark and Lifetime movies
(although there is always on demand…lol). No more heavenly hosts singing Alleluia.
Mark is our Lectionary year and he has no time for the birth narrative... LET’S GET
I was blown away (I believe Tim was too) about how quick the gears shifted this
year. We have little time to bask in the glow of Christmas as we have to plan, lay out,
and put together Lent and Easter; it is coming at us like a freight train. Tim came into
my office and grinned, maybe grimaced, a little as he proclaimed, “We haven’t picked
the hymns after the first Sunday in January.
I don’t know what is wrong with us... we are normally already done with the
outline up to Easter by this time. Perhaps it was just wanting to bask in that glow for
just a little longer. The gospel of Mark is ready to open our eyes, ears, minds, and hearts
to the providence and power of God.
For Mark the story of Jesus doesn’t begin in Bethlehem, but outside of Bethany
where John the Baptist was preaching and baptizing in the Jordan River. Mark skips the
Christmas celebration all together. His thrust is the fulfillment of God’s promises of
salvation. Information about Jesus’ childhood has no bearing on the plan of salvation.
The public ministry, death on the cross, and resurrection of Jesus are the events in
which God’s love comes to humanity.
Mark reminds us of the importance of the message about salvation by reminding
people that the word gospel originally meant “proclamation” or “good news.” I
sometimes think that it is often in hindsight that God’s providence and proclamation becomes recognizable and the everyday events of our lives become evidence of God’s
presence and work in our lives.
Christianity began with a “new message” with the “old writings” about what the
God known through that Scripture had done in Jesus Christ. The sayings of Jesus and
stories about him had circulated by word of mouth for years before Mark was written.
The good news itself is a simple message of salvation in Jesus, where we can take it
anywhere in the world.
Mark is nudging us along to encounter the God who is searching for us: We
encounter God together! Mark tries to lower our anxiety about the future and lessen the
burdens of our past. He pushes us to, no frees us, to follow Jesus in faith in the right
here and now.
I think that the Gospel of Mark makes it so we can trust Emmanuel, God with us,
to enable us to worry less and step out to risk more for the very sake of the Gospel.
So, I now begin my planning of the Lenten season and read some books to get the
creative juices flowing in the direction of where God leads me. Perhaps God will tap me
on the shoulder and point out that God loves and leads, transforms and heals, guides and
intervenes, in new ways that offer new insights. Insights into a life that is called to
share, be with, and assist others.
Perhaps this forty-day Lenten journey will hone not only my senses but yours as
well. We cherished that little baby but now we can feel God’s presence in every single
moment and act that must be taken. Because we really begin the new journey now!
I hope you had a joyous Christmas and a happy New Year. I also hope that you
enjoy the annual report for 2020 coming out sometime in January. I pray it brings you
hope in the coming of 2021!
Joan and I thank you for all the cards, gifts, and well wishes this Christmas season.