Lectionary readings for the 2nd Sunday of Advent include Mark 1:1-8 and Isaiah 40:1-11.
The Gospel reading for Sunday is from the prologue of Mark. Rooted in Old Testament prophecy, Jesus is introduced to us through this New Testament prophet, John the Baptist. He is an interesting character, no doubt, living in the wilderness, wearing strange clothes and eating even stranger things. This is a man who will not make the cover of GQ magazine; he couldn't care less about such matters. This man of God seems passionate about one thing and one thing only and that is pointing people to the Son of God.
The Gospel of Mark promises good news and, certainly, the people of 1st Century Palestine could use some good news. They are living under Roman rule. As taxes rise so does the resentment that the Jews feel for those who are in control of their world. Onto the stage walks John the Baptist, who points to the promised Messiah. Yes, the people are desperate for some good news. But will they hear it? In Feasting on the Word, Judy Yates Siker puts it so well: "Clearly, this is not the birth story of Matthew or Luke. No manger scenes derive from this Gospel. Yet, here in the opening lines of Mark we have a "birth story" of sorts. On this second Sunday in Advent, it is good to tell of new beginnings, to tell about a God who breaks into our time with good news. In this Advent season he comes. Perhaps not as might be expected; perhaps not in the time frame desired--but he comes."
Read Isaiah 40:1-11 as well as Mark 1:1-8, then consider the following:
- What similarities do you note between the two prophecies?
- What differences?
- Read the passage from Mark once again, putting yourself in the story as a person standing on the bank of the Jordan River listening in. What is your response to John the Baptist?
- Are you drawn to him or do you shy away?
- Now slowly read the text, putting yourself in the story as the head of a Jewish family who has been oppressed by the Romans. For whatever reason, by their hands you and your loved ones are suffering. How do John's words strike you now?
- How has the Good News of Jesus Christ affected your life?
It is the second Sunday in Advent. As we continue our journey, let us keep watch for the Son of God about whom John the Baptist speaks.
I look forward to seeing you in worship this Sunday and celebrating the Lord's Supper with you.