December 7, 2014 (Year B Advent 2) Celtic Meditation

Mark 1:1-8

Mark begins his gospel by telling us who Jesus is:  the Christ, which means the Anointed One, and the Son of God. But Jesus doesn’t just arrive without warning:  a prophet of old had announced that a messenger would come before the Lord’s arrival.[1]   Hundreds of years before the messenger came, the prophet Isaiah had told the people what to expect this messenger to say.[2]   This messenger appeared in an uninhabited place, dressed the way the people of his day expected a prophet to dress, speaking words that other prophets had said, telling the people to prepare because the day that the prophets of old had spoken of was near.   Throughout the history of the church, we have had people who live lives that symbolize that they are set apart to serve the church as prophets.  For the church today, what are the symbols of prophets and what old words do we expect to hear through those voices?

The messenger of God, John the baptizer, stood on the edge of the Jordan River, symbolizing entrance into the Promised Land.  He ate food that symbolized to those people that God was providing for him, moment by moment.  His message to them was to prepare the way of the Lord, which, as we heard in Psalm 85:9, begins with respecting and being in awe of the Lord.[3]    Revering the Lord is expressed by repenting, which means turning away from ways that are not approved by the Lord.  Only in this way can the people cross the Jordan and enter into the Promised Land.  This baptism of repentance marks the people as a people who are turning toward the one anointed by God.  What ways of being do we, as church, need to turn from so that we demonstrate our respect and reverence for Jesus and his ways?

John’s attitude toward the Son of God is clear:  he does not consider himself to be worthy to even do what the lowest servant in a household of that day would do for his master.  Humble John not only recognized his place in the great story of salvation, but he also recognizes the relative importance of his ministry.  The baptism for repentance is the beginning of the Christian journey.  A greater baptism is on the horizon for the people of John’s day, a baptism that initiates fellowship with the Holy Spirit.   This is the baptism we receive as Christians.  What does it mean, for us as church, to be those who are baptized into fellowship with the Holy Spirit?

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[1] Mark begins by quoting from Malachi 3:1, the messenger prepares a way for the Lord God who will come into his temple.

[2] Isaiah 40:3 also references the coming of the Lord God. Since divine name is used in Isaiah, Mark’s use of this passage attributes full divinity to Jesus which provides the details for what he means by the term “Son of God.”

[3] Here, “fear” means awe and reverence.  See Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis 3, chapter 1.

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