Advent is all about promises. And not just Advent, but the whole Gospel. We read today – “The beginning of the good news of Jesus, the Son of God” – the Gospel writer Mark literally begins his account with a promise of Isaiah. It’s the promise of Isaiah to desperate Israel at one of the low points of its history.
And while Mark points to John the Baptist as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise that one will come crying out in the wilderness, it is John the Baptist that brings us the promise of comfort, deliverance, and renewal.
Through John the Baptist we hear the promises of God and we come face to face with God in the realization of the promises. The promises that God is with us, that God comes to us and that God is willing to do anything to set us free.
So we hear the promises and begin to prepare ourselves, our church and the world for the coming of Jesus and for the strength and courage to change our lives.
That preparation begins in worship with one another.
In that preparation we make things right with God, we make things right with one another and we make things right within us as well. In doing that we receive the promises from God. Promises that create an expectation about the future and that future expectation sets something in motion right here and right now.
That’s what makes Advent different from Christmas, that’s what it means to prepare.
We are preparing for a time when God became one of us! God began a journey toward a cross and an empty tomb to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves! God became visible in a way that we could see directly!
For the church Christmas is a holy day, Advent is a time for us to prepare for an encounter with the Holy One.
You might not care too much right now about meeting the Holy One. Right now you might be more interested in singing Christmas carols, or buying Christmas gifts, or baking Christmas cookies — and generally getting into the Christmas spirit. And that’s okay, there is time for that as well. But we can’t put on some Christmas Music and eat some cookies and think that life is going to be okay. We still have struggles we still have hurt and pains, and God hears those.
God hears our cries of fear and concern and doubt at our lowest points and responds.
God responds with promises of healing, peace, and justice in and through the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
I know, I know, you have heard that before, and maybe you think that your fears, doubts and concerns are too big — maybe when you think about preparation you think it is another thing that you have to add to your to do list and that list is already too long.
But trust me when I say this, believe me when I tell you that God promises to bring healing, wholeness, comfort and justice to us all.
The start of mark’s Gospel is not The Good News of Jesus Christ but rather “The Beginning of the Good News….” Which means that everything Mark has to say about Jesus – all the healing, preaching, teaching, exorcising, and even Jesus’ death and resurrection – is only the beginning of the good news. There’s still more to come.
The end of the Gospel is not really the end. The final chapter of Mark’s gospel, the angel meets women at Jesus’ empty tomb and declares Jesus resurrection and commands the women at the empty tomb to go share the good news but they run away terrified and say nothing to anyone.
And that’s it.
Mark concludes his Gospel with an open-ending because it is, after all, just the beginning. The story isn’t over. Which means we are all invited to continue the story of the good news of Jesus as God continues to write the Gospel of Jesus in and through our lives as individuals and communities.
This mission is a continuation of the gospel writers, this is a continuation of what the disciples did this is a continuation of Jesus’ ministry!
While we are waiting this advent season, we can also prepare ourselves for the ministry ahead. We can take our time, energy, money and lives making a difference in the church, community and world right now.
Because it’s not just John who is called to cry out and prepare the way. It’s all of us. Right here, right now, waiting actively, if you will, by making a difference in the lives of the people God has put all around us.