In this portion of the earliest Gospel, Mark introduces the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and validates John as the messenger prophesied by Isaiah who will prepare the way of the Lord.
Vast crowds follow John’s call to turn away from sin, confess publicly, and be baptized. But John announces that one greater than he is coming who will not baptize with water but with the Holy Spirit. Hearing this, John’s followers likely take this announcement to mean that he is prophesying the beginning of the long-anticipated messianic age, when God would pour out God’s Spirit on all of Israel.
Fast forward to the present. The gift of the Holy Spirit empowers us to follow Jesus’ teaching to love God and all our neighbors—even our enemies. By our own efforts we may be able to love our families and friends reasonably well, but rarely our enemies and those who hurt us intentionally.
The Amish community near Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, showed the world how, empowered by the Spirit of Christ, they were able to love their enemy. In October 2007 their regular, non-Amish milk delivery man entered the schoolhouse and shot ten children, killing five. Instead of responding with revenge, community members—including parents of the children killed—visited the family of the shooter, attended his burial, and donated money to his widow and children. The Amish believe in demonstrating their faith in the goodness of God by the way they live their daily lives. Responding with forgiveness didn’t remove their grief, but their decision to refrain from revenge enabled them to grieve and to begin healing and not get stuck in anger and hatred. Their example demonstrated what love looks like in action.
Holy Spirit, it is hard to love people who hurt us. Help us understand that we are all your children. Enable us to see one another through your eyes and to love with your love. Amen.
Prepare the way of the Lord! This is the theme for the second week of Advent. Isaiah cries out from the wilderness that the people should prepare for the arrival of the Lord. This will be met with shouts of praise and rejoicing. The psalmist tells his audience to prepare the way of the Lord by living rightly, namely by showing love and faithfulness to each other. Second Peter restates that we do not know the day of the Lord’s ultimate return, but we know that the delay is a result of God’s patience and desire for all to come to repentance. Matthew opens his Gospel with a quotation from this week’s Isaiah passage. Here John the Baptist is presented as the one preparing the way of the Lord.
Read Isaiah 40:1-11. When have you profoundly experienced God’s guidance or protection? How did this experience change you?
Read Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13. Consider the author’s questions. How can you and your faith community return to God to “dwell in God’s land”?
Read 2 Peter 3:8-15a. How might considering God’s time alter your perspective on your daily rush and prompt you toward a greater experience of peace?
Read Mark 1:1-8. When have you reached a spiritual dead end? How did the working of the Holy Spirit help you turn around or move forward in a new way?
Respond by posting a prayer.
Whitney Simpson offers a wide-open doorway into embodied practice and awakens us to the long-held wisdom of our tradition that our bodies are sacred places where God meets us and dwells. Fully Human, Fully Divine is a true Christmas gift!”
Click here to learn more about our newest Advent book and eCourse.