December 6, 2020 The Second Sunday in Advent The text is Mark 1: 1-8.
1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; 3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’ ”. 4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 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. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 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. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
As a child I was the type of kid that was seemingly always impatiently waiting for something; the start of school vacation; birthday presents; and in my youth, the first snowfall of the year, so I could go sledding. Although, these days, I’m not quite so ready for the snow; my knees decided some years ago that they no longer wanted to go skiing. And as for snow, all that really leaves is shoveling it and driving in it; these I can do without. My mother constantly reminded me of the old saying. “patience is a virtue”. I will admit that even today, patience is not one of my more admirable qualities.
Perhaps it’s my New York City upbringing and the hustle and bustle lifestyle that entailed; or more likely, it’s just that I’m impatient by nature. Bottom line is, I get anxious if I’m forced to wait for something, pretty much anything.
My wife will attest to this fact; it’s not a lot of fun to be a passenger in the car with me when traffic isn’t moving up ahead. And I have apparently never chosen the fastest-enough moving checkout line at the supermarket. I’m not proud of the irritation I express when I’m forced to wait for things to happen. That said, the wait during Advent, as we anticipate the birth of Christ is a time when I’m usually able to tone down my impatience somewhat. After all, even as we await his arrival, we know that Jesus is already here with us. And I take heart when I hear the words of the writer of 2 Peter; when he reminds us that, “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day”. I’m humbled and thankful when I think of the patience that God bestows upon us; God patiently waits for all of creation to come to believe in the Gospel, the “Good News” of Jesus. And on this second Sunday in Advent we hear the words of Mark announcing, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”.
And in the very next verse, Mark repeats Isaiah’s proclamation that a messenger will be sent from God to prepare a straight path for Jesus to tread; as the Son of God embarks on his ministry to bring salvation to God’s people. Mark writes that Jesus’ cousin John, the scruffy desert-dwelling Baptizer has now emerged on the scene. He is the “voice in the wilderness”, announcing the arrival of the Messiah. Surely, with this the waiting should be over soon! Not so fast; remember that Mark starts his gospel by writing that this is “the beginning” of the “Good News”. So, the wait continues. But, to ease the anxiousness, along with confirming that God’s perception of time isn’t hindered by our human understanding of its passage, we are admonished to wait patiently for the coming day of the Lord. And while waiting we are to live lives characterized by peace; we are cautioned to strive for holiness and godliness in our actions. There’s that reminder again that we are to wait “patiently” for something; and in the case of the coming of the Savior of the world, it just happens to be the best thing ever that we are to be patient about!
I’ve admitted to my struggle with impatience; yet, the knowledge of the value of the gift that is to come, this is what enables me to temper my eagerness with some measure of serenity as I wait.
And I find my impatience is somewhat alleviated by the testimony in 2 Peter, that a thousand years is a day, and a day a thousand years in God’s eyes. That being the case, I should be able to make it through four weeks of Advent, while waiting for the birth of the Christ child. And ultimately, I am reassured by the Lutheran understanding of the kingdom of God that we’ve touched on a few times these past few weeks. The “not yet” and the “already here”. It’s then that I realize that I needn’t be quite so anxious in my waiting for Jesus to arrive, since he is already here. This is the beautiful mystery of our Redeemer; he is the One to come, is present, and he will come again.
Yet, this year in particular has made waiting difficult for everyone, especially for the impatient among us, who yearn for the time when the pandemic has passed, and there is a return to the way things were. And this may not be the case; things might very well be totally different from what we’re used to. Masks might be a required fashion statement for quite some time. Hugs and handshakes may not ever become commonplace again. The world may find itself a very different place in many aspects of life, society, culture, and relationships. And while this may seem daunting, and even frightening for some, the fact is that whatever the future holds, God’s kingdom will prevail. For, like our understanding of the nature of Christ, the kingdom of heaven also is “to come” and is “already present”. The kingdom found itself proclaimed when Mark made his pronouncement that his gospel heralded “the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
So, as we now encounter John the Baptist far from the city, living off the land and baptizing repentant Jews in the Jordan River, we are presented with the sign that the “Good News” has arrived. This “euangelion”, this Gospel promise is revealed by John as the One coming after him; Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
And the world will never be the same again; everything is about to change, as Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection returns God’s children to a righteous relationship with the Father. And, I for one, can hardly wait!
And if the world is able to contend with a transformation as momentous as the inbreaking of the kingdom of God, I’m confident we will be able to deal with whatever changes we find ourselves facing as the new year approaches. In the meantime, we would do well to abide by the admonition from 2 Peter to be engaged in the work of the present kingdom as we await the arrival of the kingdom that is to come. The “Good News” of God will be found in swaddling clothes, lying in the manger in just over two weeks. And through this incarnation, the ever-present kingdom of God will once again be declared, and things will never be the same again. This will be the greatest event in the history of God’s people, and even for someone as impatient as me, it is truly well worth waiting for.
Will you pray with me? Good and gracious and Holy God, grant us patience as we await the One who has been foretold by Isaiah and proclaimed by John at the Jordan. Give us the strength and the will to endure the hardships of this world as we prepare to rejoice at the birth of the One who is the herald of the kingdom to come. And we pray these things the name of Jesus, who is to come, who is present, and who will come again. Amen.
God is Good, all the time. All the time, God is Good. Amen.