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.”
Reflection What does this have to say to us, many of whom were baptized as infants? Isn’t baptism a done deal? Not according to John. “This is the beginnning of the good news, ” news that always we begin again. There is no shortage of opportunities for each of us to pause, listen to the words of the prophet, examine our lives for vestigages of sin asking; To what am I clinging for my safety and security? How do I use alcohol, drugs, food, shopping, sex, work, video games, people or the internet for comfort or esteem? What means do I employ to acquire and exert power and control? What if I found my safety, security, affection, esteem, power and control in relationship with God instead?
Now let me be crystal clear. I am not suggesting that the things of earth or creation are evil. That would be a heresy. It is our attachment to things as sources of that which is of God that is sin. Just another way of saying, we have a tendency to turn things into idols - golden calves, golden parachutes. When we decide to repent, to change our minds, to let go of our idols, our habits, attachments and addictions, we are ready for something new. This is how we prepare the way for the one who is and is to come. This is our work for the Advent season; preparing the way for the Christ to be born again in each of us.
Surely preparing the way for something new is as natural as new families making countless trips to Babies R Us as they prepare for the coming of a child ? Aunties buy cribs and friends cuddly blankets. Parents search the web for advice, install baby monitors and socket guards. With nothing but the best of intentions boatloads of things are gathered to welcome the child into a world of safety, security, affection, esteem, power and control. This is as it should be - and - immediately the writer of Mark’s gospel invites us to put that child in God’s hands, drenched in the water of baptism to die to a life constrained by things and rise into a life of safety, security, affection, esteem, power and control born in the hands of God. We prepare the way to give our children away to God in baptism.
At the other end of the spectrum linger those of us in later seasons of life faced with the burden of scores of physical stuff, habitual stuff, stuff we no longer have the energy to sustain. Mountains of possessions possess us. Decades of habitual behaviors and reactions stand between us and freedom like barbed wire prision walls. Are we not like the people of the Judean countryside and Jerusalem compelled by a sense of desperation and desire for something more than old stuff and the empty promises of city, state, empire? How many of us long to walk into the wilderness, throw all the things that possess us into the Jordan river, watch them sink to the watery depths and experience the lightness of being born anew in the hands of God? “This is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God….” Do you dare to prepare the way of the Lord?
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