Absurd Advent-ures

1The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
"See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,'"
4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Mark 1:1-4 (The Gospel for the 2nd Sunday in Advent)

The gospel of Mark does not begin with the warm and fuzzy Nativity story of Jesus' birth but with the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord. And so the Advent-ure begins!

     The season of Advent has two faces.  One is the exciting anticipation of the birth of Jesus so wonderfully sung in the Advent hymns like, "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" and "Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel."  Our hearts yearn once again for the fulfillment of the prophet's promise and even though we know the end of the story in our heads, our hearts can't seem to resist getting caught up in the expectation and the hope of Advent.

     The other face that Advent wears is that of John the baptizer who stands in the desert, "clothed with camel's hair; with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey" (Mark 1:6).  Our hearts are anxious with the apocalyptic despair and distress that overtakes all who stand their ground as John "proclaimed, 'The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me.'" (Mark 1:7)  We think John was expecting the courageous Avenger who would call down judgment upon our heads!

     Therein lies the paradox of Advent: while we anticipate the promises of Advent now familiar to us with time, we yearn for the overturning of things as they are and crave to participate in the reversal of the control of death and sorrow that presently looms over us globally.  With Mark's bold prophet we cooperate in the Advent-ure of a lifetime, we participate in the age where God's will for justice in enfleshed in our midst, we anticipate the One who stood under judgment for us and walked in the shadow of death for us.

      The absurd Advent-ure cannot be anything but good news because it stirs our hearts, even those cold-hearted places, with a mood of rapturous expectation as the age of the Messiah unexpectedly overturns our lives.  The prophet of Advent, John the baptizer cries out to us in a brash and daring way to "Prepare!" and "Make straight!" but he's not talking about Christmas decorations or holiday menus - the bold prophet is talking about our hearts.  And with a voice of authority he calls us to inner and outer repentance, to an acknowledgement of the ways we have or have not smoothed the rough ways for the arrival of our God.

     May we find joy in the straight path of the Lord. May the peace and justice that breaks the darkness be freely given to all.  May each of us proclaim the good news of the Advent-ure of a lifetime in all we say and do.  And may Emmanuel, God with us, come into each of our hearts.

Pastor Laurie