Mark 1: 1-8
The good news of Jesus Christ – the Message! – begins here, following to the letter the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
Watch closely: I’m sending my preacher ahead of you; He’ll make the road smooth for you. Thunder in the desert!
Prepare for God’s arrival! Make the road smooth and straight!
John the Baptizer appeared in the wild, preaching a baptism of life-change that leads to forgiveness of sins. People thronged to him from Judea and Jerusalem and, as they confessed their sins, were baptized by him in the Jordan River into a changed life. John wore a camel-hair habit, tied at the waist with a leather belt. He ate locusts and wild field honey.
As he preached he said, “The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will change your life. I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism – a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit – will change you from the inside out.”
The attraction of John the Baptist is mysterious. People flocked to him, not to be flattered but to be told the truth. They listened because of what they saw, a man who was indifferent to the world’s prizes, a man of minimal needs, who could not be bought by pleasures, comforts or money, but passionate about God. They recognised holiness.
Show me, Lord, what there is about my life that takes from the value of my words and makes me less convincing.
John the Baptist preached forgiveness. This is one of the special gifts of God, and one of the big celebrations of Advent. We are a forgiven people, and we welcome the forgiveness of God in our repentance. This means we are firstly grateful for forgiveness – that we do not have to carry forever the burden of our sin, meanness, faults and failings. God covers them over in mercy.
The second step of welcoming forgiveness is to try to do better in life – to move on from this sinfulness and meanness to a life of care, compassion, love and joy, and to make steps to forgive others.