The readings for Sunday, December 7, 2008:
First Reading: Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm: Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
Second Reading: 2 Peter 3:8-15a
Gospel: Mark 1:1-8
Today's Gospel takes us to John, a fascinating character. In today's reading, we see him, clothed in his strange costume, eating locusts and wild honey. Other Gospels present him as the cousin of Christ. Who is this guy?I find him fascinating for many reasons. Maybe I'm always intrigued by a prophet. This year, I'm thinking about John's place in the drama of Christ's life, and how he seems completely comfortable with his place.
In earlier years, I've wondered if it would be hard to be John, with his more famous cousin Jesus overshadowing him. This year, I notice that he has the perfect opportunity to upstage Jesus--people of the time period were desperate for a Messiah, and there were plenty of predators wandering around, trying to convince people that they were the Messiah. John had more legitimacy and a wider following than most of the other people with their wild claims.
But John knows who he is. And he fills out his full potential by preparing the way for Jesus. Not only does John know who he is, he knows who Jesus is. John knows for whom he waits and watches.
We might be wise to see John as a cautionary tale too. John is one of the earliest to know the true mission of Jesus (in some Gospel versions, perhaps he realizes the mission of Jesus before Jesus fully does). Notice that John's life is turned upside down.
I'm not saying that we'll be driven into the desert to eat locusts. But it is a different vision than the one that today's current crop of Prosperity Preachers offers us.
Many people are shocked to discover that being a Christian doesn't protect them from hard times. Being a Christian doesn't mean that we won't suffer sickness, that we won't lose our jobs, that we won't lose almost everything we love. To be human means that we will suffer loss--and thinking people know in advance that we will suffer loss, which means that we suffer more than once.
But we have a God who has experienced the very same thing. Think of the life of Jesus, who had no place to lay his head and died by crucifixion. No prosperity gospel there.
No, the good news is that we have a God who fully understands all the ways in which we suffer--and wants to be with us anyway. We have a God who fully understands all the ways in which we will fail--and loves us fully anyway.
John reminds us of our Advent goal, which is to keep watch, to stay alert. Of course, our Advent goal should spill over into the rest of our life. It's easy to keep watch in December, when the rest of the world counts down to Christmas. It's harder to remember to watch for God in the middle of summer. And of course, that's why we need to develop daily spiritual practices that will keep us watchful.
It's important for us to determine which practices will develop our intimacy with God. For John, it was going into the wilderness. What will it be for you?
And of course, we're being prepared for a greater mission than just our own personal relationship with God. John baptized people and told them the Good News. We are called to do the same.
feeling the feelings…
10 months ago