Lent & Advent Midweek Message

SEASON OF ADVENT – Second Sunday of Advent 12/10/2023

Carolyn Matthews

December 9, 2023

ADVENT 2023

Second Sunday of Advent

December 10, 2023

 

The Best is Yet to Come

Jim Hopkins

(Rev. Dr. H. James Hopkins is Senior Pastor of Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, Oakland, CA)

 

Mark 1: 1-8 (NRSVUE)

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ.

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,’ ”

so John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And the whole Judean region 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 strap of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

 

 

Mark 1:7:   He (John the Baptist) 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.”

 

It is likely that Mark wrote his gospel primarily for the benefit of the gentile followers of Jesus living in Rome during the emperorship of Nero. Mark’s audience knew harassment, disparagement and persecution. Nero blamed them for a 64 CE fire that nearly destroyed the city. One of the messages Mark wanted to share with them was. “Jesus too knew what it was to be misunderstood and persecuted. But hold on. God is with you as God was with Jesus. The best is yet to come.”

 

The beginning verses of Mark’s gospel are representative of the message that the best is yet to come. In them he tells of John the Baptist, whom the followers of Jesus in Rome likely had heard of, maybe even remembered, as popular, courageous, charismatic and odd. Saying that though he, John, had important work to do; it was really work that was primarily to prepare the way for Jesus. John pointed beyond himself to Jesus. He was clear. The best was yet to come.

 

The concluding verse of today’s passage emphasizes this theme. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  John tells his audience, and through him, Mark, his hearers, that though John baptized with water, the essence of life, Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit, the essence of God. Again, the message, the best is yet to come.

 

Children, especially as Christmas approaches, generally do not need any convincing that the best is yet to come. They seem bettered suited to accepting the message of hope. We adults are likely to be much more skeptical. We have heard it all before. We are worn down by the onslaught of glimmering promises from advertisers, politicians and preachers; that if we would just buy, the right product, vote the right way or believe the right things, heaven on earth will be ours. We are on guard against getting fooled again.

 

Mark gets it. His people knew all about false promises.  The promise of Pax Romana. The promise of an emperor who was sent by the gods. Promises that threatened now to destroy them. Thus, his invitation is guarded. Listen to the story of this man named Jesus. See his compassion. Perceive his heart. Hear his teaching. Take note of the way he lived and the way he died. Then decide, decide for yourself, if there is anything to this promise, the promise that the best is yet to come.