A Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent, 6 December 2020 - Chris Trend
Mark 1 v 1 to 8
1 This is where the good news starts – the good news of Jesus the Messiah, God’s son.
2 Isaiah the prophet put it like this (‘Look! I am sending my messenger ahead of me; he will clear the way for you!’):
3 ‘A shout goes up in the desert: Make way for the Lord! Clear a straight path for him!’
4 John the Baptizer appeared in the desert. He was announcing a baptism of repentance, to forgive sins. 5 The whole of Judaea, and everyone who lived in Jerusalem, went out to him; they confessed their sins and were baptized by him in the river Jordan. 6 John wore camel-hair clothes, with a leather belt round his waist. He used to eat locusts and wild honey.
7 ‘Someone a lot stronger than me is coming close behind,’ John used to tell them. ‘I don’t deserve to squat down and undo his sandals. 8 I’ve plunged you in the water; he’s going to plunge you in the Holy Spirit.’
New Testament for Everyone (NTE)
Scripture quotations from The New Testament for Everyone are copyright © Nicholas Thomas Wright 2011.
Mark doesn’t hang about. He gets straight into it. Like a herald, or a town crier, or a noisy alarm clock; we are woken up. There is Good News that we need to hear. This Good News is about Jesus.
There are no nativity stories or any build up to Jesus encounter with John the Baptist. We’re plunged straight into the story. This is a gospel in a hurry.
Last week’s readings tell us why. Mark is writing this gospel as Jerusalem falls. The church has been dispersed. She faces false teachings and persecutions. There is the likelihood that Jesus could return now. Time is short. There is no need to tell stories that may be known to Christians anyway. Let’s just get on with it.
Mark introduces John the Baptist through the words of Isaiah. I like this version’s way of presenting this almost as a footnote. No elaboration; just quickly setting the context.
If Isaiah is there to introduce John the Baptist, then John is there to introduce Jesus. John’s message is that as he plunges people into water; so Jesus will plunge His people in the Holy Spirit.
This time of “plunging in the Holy Spirit” is one which the young Church of Pentecost would recognise. It serves as a useful reminder to a Church, dispersed and under threat, of who they are and where they have come from.
Likewise, it is good for us in the Church of today to remember who we are and where we have come from. We are still living in the age of the Holy Spirit; the age of Pentecost. We have a 2,000 year back story about who we are and why we are members of All Hallows’ and St. Michael’s.
This year shows how quickly events can come upon us. Did anyone this time last year think that we would see our churches closed and restrictions on our freedoms in place? Did we expect this virus to so dominate our lives this year?
In the midst of this we are called to proclaim the Gospel. We are the heralds, the town criers, of this age. We may need to proclaim this Gospel afresh, but then we ought to be doing that anyway. It is a case of what that means for our churches in our parish and maybe beyond too.
The traditions of our two churches means we can do this in the context of our Holy Communions services. As we listen to the Gospel proclaimed in word and sacrament, as we experience the presence of the Holy Spirit; so we got out to proclaim the Gospel in the way we live and to the lives we encounter.
We will be looking at St. Mark’s Gospel much closer this year. We will encounter the Jesus that Mark knew and in the way that he felt the need to share with other Christians. How does his gospel teach and encourage us in our mission within our parish?
We are all heralds. Not necessary the shouting in the street types; but we can also proclaim the Good News in the way we live, in quietness. The Good News of Jesus is as much about how He is changing us day by day as He calls us to follow Him. People notice that.