SCRIPTURE READING: Mark 1:1-8 (NRSV)
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.
When Jesus comes, the shadows depart. –Author unknown, inscription on a Scottish castle
Before when I read this passage I focused on the wilderness imagery, but this morning as I was on my way to work I was thinking how this verse is really celebrating Jesus. This passage is a reminder that the world needed to be prepared for the coming of Jesus. The peace for which Jesus fought and the world that was changed after his death is the “good news” mentioned by Mark. But someone still needed to ready the world and that person was John the Baptist.
John the Baptist was considered a great teacher, but his message was always about the one coming—Jesus. Rabbis taught that students should do anything their teacher asked of them except untie his shoes. Is it just ironic then that John says he isn’t even worthy to untie Jesus’ sandals? Nope! This was most likely intentionally said to help the audience understand Jesus’ great power.
John kept watch and prepared the way of Jesus. In this Advent season, keep watch with me. It is the life of Jesus that helps to bind our hearts to God and it also provides a common connection for humanity. During this busy season, do not let your mind wander and get wrapped up in the pageantry of Christmas. It is just the beginning. Let’s watch together for Christ to be present in the world.
Every character has an inward spring; let Christ be that spring. Every action has a keynote; let Christ be that note, to which your whole life is attuned. -Henry Drummond
The world's dark night is hastening on;
Speed, speed thy work, cast sloth away;
It is not thus that souls are won.
Toil on, faint not, keep watch and pray.
(From a hymn by Horatius Bonar: Go, Labor On: Spend, and Be Spent)