1-4 This is the beginning of the good news of Jesus, the Anointed One, the Liberating King, the Son of God.
Isaiah the prophet told us what would happen before He came:
Watch, I will send My messenger in front of You
to prepare Your way and make it clear and straight.
You’ll hear him, a voice crying in the wilderness,
“Prepare the way of the Eternal One,
a straight way in the wandering desert, a highway for our God.”
4-6 That messenger was John the Baptist, who appeared in the desert near the Jordan River preaching that people should be ritually cleansed through baptism with water as a sign of both their changed hearts and God’s forgiveness of their sins. People from across the countryside of Judea and from the city of Jerusalem came to him and confessed that they were deeply flawed and needed help, so he cleansed them with the waters of the Jordan. John dressed as some of the Hebrew prophets had, in clothes made of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist. He made his meals in the desert from locusts and wild honey.
7-8 He preached a message in the wilderness: “Someone is coming who is a lot more powerful than I am—One whose sandals I’m not worthy to bend down and untie. I’ve washed you here through baptism with water; but when He gets here, He will wash you in the Spirit of God."
Thoughts from Jess: The Hebrew people were waiting for the coming of the Messiah for hundreds of years now. Their Sacred Scripture (the Old Testament) held many promises and prophecies of this messiah to come. They waited in hopeful expectation. Mark starts his story right away with the fulfillment of these promises. John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin born only a few weeks before Jesus. He was a dedicated, if not strange man who devoted his life to the ways of his faith. He prepared the way for Jesus!
Mark quotes a passage from Malachi to show that John the Baptist was the one to come prepare the way for the Messiah. Malachi’s book contained his prophecy to the Israelites written over 400 years ago. In this book, God tells the people that he loves them, but that they had broken his covenant relationship with them. They weren’t receiving the blessings of God because they refused to obey God’s words. Malachi then declares that a day is coming when the messiah will come. Mark also quotes Isaiah, another Israelite prophet, who also told the Israelites that the Lord was to come and that he will rule in power when he does. The readers of Mark’s Gospel would have been familiar with these popular passages from their prophets. They would know that Mark was claiming that John the Baptist was the one who was prophesied to come to prepare the way for the messiah. He also makes the bold claim that Jesus is even greater than John and is the one they have been waiting for. Wow!
The long awaited for messiah was to come and make things right and restore his covenant relationship with his people. So, it makes sense that the first thing we see is John the Baptist preparing the way for people to be made clean, free from all shame and pain. He was foreshadowing the way that Jesus would bring us into pure relationship with God. Also, John declares that the empowering Holy Spirit would come. The water only cleans the physical body, but the Spirit reaches deep into our whole being to keep us close to God. The messiah rules powerfully from the inside out, by making all things right.
Meditation Advent Calendar
December 3: Spend 1 minute reflecting on waiting.
December 4: Spend 2 minutes reflecting on mercy.
December 5: Spend 3 minutes reflecting on justice.
December 6: Spend 4 minutes reflecting on goodness.
December 7: Spend 5 minutes reflecting on love.
December 8: Spend 6 minutes reflecting on forgiveness.
December 9: Spend 7 minutes reflecting on wholeness.
December 10: Spend 8 minutes scrolling on social media.
Send a message of encouragement to one person in your feed.
December 11: Spend 9 minutes focusing on your breath.
December 12: Spend 10 minutes outside in silent awareness.
December 13: Spend 11 minutes in a public setting observing the people around you.
December 14: Spend 12 minutes tending to your yard, your garden, or your plants.
December 15: Spend 13 minutes reflecting on waiting.
December 16: Spend 14 minutes stretching your body.
December 17: Spend 15 minutes in gratitude.
December 18: Spend 16 minutes reflecting on joy.
December 19: Spend 17 minutes re-reading a favorite text.
December 20: Spend 18 minutes reflecting on liberation.
December 21: Spend 19 minutes re-listening to some favorite music.
December 22: Spend 20 minutes in silent awareness.
December 23: Spend 21 minutes outside.
December 24: Spend 22 minutes reflecting on waiting.
December 25: Merry Christmas!
“Liturgy” refers to the habits and practices humans use to form community around shared values and meaning. At Church at the Park, we desire to be a community of practice, becoming people who see the world through the eyes of the marginalized, making meaning through the lens of pain and suffering, and committing ourselves to non-violence in a wounded world. This weekly email is intended to provide pathways of practice for becoming the type of people who embody these values.
Many of our reflections on each week's text come from other sources. If you're interested in reading more of what inspires us, here our our two favorite reflections.
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