“Look, I am sending my messenger before you. He will prepare your way, a voice shouting in the wilderness: ” Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight.”” (Mark 1:2-3 CEB)
It’s the first week of Advent. That means that Christmas is just four weeks away! This year seems to have gone by so quickly. But, before we say goodbye to this year, we have time to prepare ourselves to welcome the baby Jesus one more time. This momentous event that took place over two thousand years ago is still celebrated again, year after year. How do we keep the excitement of the season going? How can we continue to show awe and wonder about a story that happened so long ago? I fear that much of the excitement of the Christmas season has little to do with the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world. I fear that most of us are excited about the beautiful decorations, the parties with family and friends, and the good cheer that just seems to be part of all of it. The season of giving extends beyond the gifts we give each other to the extra giving that we make for the many worthy causes that seek our generosity every year. There is nothing wrong with any of this and we are right to enjoy the holidays and share the joy with everyone we meet. I’m all for a hearty “Merry Christmas” or even a “Happy holidays” for our non-Christian sisters and brothers.
It is important that we recognize the secular trappings of the Christmas season and relegate them to their proper place. This means that we then must elevate the true story to its rightful place as the focus of this time of year. That is part of why we are doing our our worship series, “Awaiting the Already” this year. We want to take some time each Sunday to look at how each gospel writer brings us the story of Jesus’ birth. There are four distinctly different ways of telling the story in the four gospels and we are going to look at each one. We started this week in the Gospel of Mark, noticing that he doesn’t actually mention the birth of Jesus at all. Mark brings us into the story at the Baptism of Jesus and hits the ground running as he tells the story with great urgency. It is a reminder that we also should have a sense of urgency about hearing and remembering the stories of Jesus. The urgency is the same today as it was two thousand years ago.
As we go through our Advent journey this year, I pray that you will take some time to really get involved with the various versions of this story and how we have taken all of what we read in the Bible and molded it into the Christmas narrative we are so familiar with. Think about how this narrative reflects the true story and where it may blur the story. Seek to understand the tension that surrounded this one man’s birth story and his whole life. There is political intrigue; there is social and cultural upheaval; everything about this event is extraordinary. It is a fitting beginning to the most extraordinary life in history. Meet Jesus again this Christmas and prepare yourself to receive the already.