Summary: 2nd Sunday of Advent - Repentance
“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God!”
These are the words given to us by God, through the first verse of the Gospel of Mark. In these words the gospel writer clearly prepares us for the story we will encounter throughout this gospel. This is the story of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. All four Gospels begin with some form of set-up. The writers chose very different approaches for their literary introduction.
Isn’t it funny how that happens? We have four writers, looking at one life, yet interpreting the Gospel for us through their personal lens. We could take any four of you, sit the quartette in front of a mural and ask you to study it for a few minutes and then write down your summery of the painting; and we would likely get four different perspectives. Not right or wrong, just different. One may highlight the use of color, another might comment on the use of lines, another could possibly focus on the details, while the last could see the painting as a whole, taking it all in at once. The varying viewpoints are likely reflective of the variety of personality types, as well as cultural and geographic influences.
The gospel writers similarly described the life of Jesus from their unique perspectives and aimed at a unique audience. Luke aimed his gospel toward gentile Christians, Matthew to Jewish Christians in the region of Palestine, John was given to encourage the Christian community in a time of persecution, and Mark, today’s focus, intends to encourage the Christian community outside of Palestine, those likely suffering persecution under Nero. When we study a Gospel passage understanding this perspective, the writer’s purpose becomes clear.
It is appropriate that we discuss the purpose of the gospels during Advent. Advent is a time of preparation, a time when we put into perspective the importance of Christmas. We have said this before, but don’t you think that we sometimes forget what it means to celebrate Christmas? Sometimes we need a reminder of the importance of this holiday. We need someone to prepare us for the “coming of our Lord”, to remind us of this holy relationship.
David Peterson, former pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Spokane, Washington, told about a time when he was preparing his sermon. His little daughter came in and said, "Daddy, can we play?" He answered, "I’m awfully sorry, Sweetheart, but I’m right in the middle of preparing this sermon. In about an hour I can play." She said, "Okay, when you’re finished, Daddy, I am going to give you a great big hug. He said, “Well, I’ll look forward to that. Thank you very much." She went to the door and (these are his words) “Then she did a U-turn and came back and gave me a chiropractic, bone-breaking hug." David said to her, "Baby, you said you were going to give me a hug after I finished."
She answered, "Daddy, I just wanted you to know what you have to look forward to!"
One meaning of Christmas is that God wants us to know, through this First Coming, what we have to look forward to in the great Second Coming.