By Steve Drinkall, Manager – Mission Engagement, Office of the Synod
In the first chapter of Mark’s gospel, we are reminded of words written hundreds of years before Jesus would actually arrive on earth as the promised Messiah. The prophet Isaiah suggests that as part of the plan, God would send a messenger beforehand to ‘prepare the way for the Lord’. Mark is about to launch into a whole story about the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus, but before he gets started, he wants us to know that God has in fact been planning and working this through for a long time and is more than capable of seeing the story through to the end.
Mark, then goes on to tell us about who this messenger turns out to be. John the Baptist turns out to be a very unexpected person in an unexpected place. He is out in the desert, away from the seats of power and influence. He is clothed in a camel’s hair jacket, is eating just bugs and honey and no doubt has a crazy and wild hairdo. John would hardly seem like an obvious choice for the key person to usher in the Messiah. But John’s message is all about preparation. He is calling people to repent; to begin to deal with the pain in their lives. He is offering for people to be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. Or in other words, to prepare themselves spiritually for what is to come when the Messiah arrives.
It turns out that this was exactly the right message for the right time and many people travelled out to the desert and were compelled to repent and be baptized by John. But John was very clear that what he was doing was only dealing with the past, the real work was to be done by Jesus the Messiah. Jesus would be the one who would allow them to be filled with God’s Spirit so that they were ready for whatever comes in the future.
This advent season may again turn out to be busy and overwhelming, but from this passage, we can be reminded that God is faithful to the long game of our lives, even though we might feel consumed by the present moment. We can consider the challenge that often our preparation is about letting go of things more than it is about taking more things on. Is there some painful or difficult thing that you can now begin to deal with, confess, or repent before we get to the celebration of Jesus’ birth?
And lastly, I wonder as you prepare for this advent season whether you can allow yourself to be open to being filled with God’s spirit so that you are ready for whatever the next season brings.