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Wastelands becoming Gardens: A Sermon for Advent 3, Isaiah 35:1-10
December 12, 2016, 5:16 pm
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Bible Grace and peace to you, siblings in Christ.

 

Have you ever gone into a place after a disaster? A fire, flood, or tornado?

Maybe you were there to help, or to visit friends, or maybe it was home- before.

What was once familiar becomes a strange wasteland.

(Something that looks like this…)

I’ve been lucky to not have my own home destroyed. I’ve seen pictures on the news, driven through areas after the storm. When I see a neighborhood filled with flood waters, I have a hard time imagining toddlers on their trikes and kids zooming on their bikes, up and down streets that are now a lake. When I see a house demolished- exploded- by a tornado, I can’t imagine sitting down at the dinner table.

 

But for the families who called those places home, what might be hardest to imagine is how the memory and the present reality could be one and the same place. How could it be that sacred, safe home is no more?

Once the shock wears off, and the fact that this is what it is hits, then how can one go forward?

 

You can look back into your memories and remember what once was- you can stand in the midst of the present destruction and see that it is so horribly different- but can you possibly believe there could be something good again?

 

That’s the place the people of God were at, when they heard these words of God through Isaiah, and when they came back in later generations to listen to them again. These texts give a vision forward. For the people of God who have been conquered by the Babylonian Empire, who lived in exile, everything they knew had been destroyed. Their homes, their government, even God’s temple– all destroyed.

 

How could they hope for a change for the better?

 

God gives them hope. God gives them an image to hold on to – and a promise that this image is a sign of their future:

“the desert shall rejoice and blossom”

“the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water”

Isaiah’s images are of a creation restored, brought to greater life.

 

These images challenge the resignation of “it is what it is,” they don’t leave room for, “nothing’s going to change.” They promise, “God’s going to change it all!”

 

 

The defining feature of a desert is that it doesn’t rain much, and so it doesn’t blossom often. The energy is only put forth when there’s enough water, when it’s safe. A blossoming desert is a land trusting God will continue to provide in abundance what was once scarce, life.

 

Imagine – if we have a God who can turn the desert into a lake- what else might God be able to do? What could possibly be too big for our God?

 

Our God makes the lame to leap, the blind to see, the deaf to hear. Those who are resigned to life as it is will be surprised in joy. That’s the promise God has for us.

 

The question is- are we ready to be open to hope? Will we look to God, trusting that God will fulfill our longing for healing and life? Have we found the one worthy of our trust?

 

That’s the question John the Baptist had of Jesus. “Are you the one we’ve been waiting for, or should we look for another?” Jesus’ answer is to direct his attention to the signs around- just as promised through Isaiah, “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”

 

In their time, people living with different abilities weren’t completely allowed in to society, so these “healings” really meant being brought to greater life when it certainly seemed impossible that their lives could change.

Jesus himself is the final sign – the final proof- that we can trust in God. There’s nothing our God can’t do. God raises the dead. Jesus is alive.

 

Since God can make the desolate places become gardens, the pushed aside brought back into community, the dead man come to life, we have hope that the brokenness in and around us can be restored to life.

 

We can look back and remember the way things were, look now and see it isn’t as we need it to be, and look ahead through God’s promise to the good future that will be.

 

We live in the middle times. Where are you in the midst of desolation? Where do you look back and remember the way things were- and feel pain at the way things are today? Maybe you can’t even remember a time when things were good.

 

Look out ahead. Listen to God’s promise. Can you see the new future God intends?

 

We’re here to help each other see. When we feel like the path forward is a wall of fog, we gather here to hear God fill in the details of that path forward. We gather together to rely on each other’s strength. We can be like John’s disciples, bringing news of the signs that God is at work to restore all things.

 

The wasteland will become a garden, the devastation a welcome home, the broken whole. May God grant you hope in the meantime.

 



Blooming Out of Season Sermon: Advent 2 Isaiah 11:1-10
December 5, 2016, 12:33 pm
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bibleGrace and peace to you, siblings in Christ.

 

A couple of weeks ago, I was walking around the church. Sometimes, when the weather is nice, I walk around this place in which we gather, and I pray. I found my way out to the prayer garden and sat down on the swing.

 

I was praying for this community, for the hurt that’s been a part of recent conversations, and for each of you, for the joys and struggles I know about and those that I do not.

There are times in my prayers when I am really sad. I hurt in the love I have for you and this community, I hurt as I know your hurt. So I give it to the only one who can do anything about it. I place you, and me, and the world, into God’s hands.

 

That’s not as easy as it sounds. I’m not a person who likes to give up or give over things I think I should be able to fix. It’s easy to say slogans like, “let go and let God,” but a lot harder to do.

 

After all, what do we really imagine God’s going to do with all the pain of the world?

 

I sat out there, challenging God to answer all that I had thrown over for God to catch. Gazing around the garden, I noticed all the flower and plants that had died back for the winter. All that was once green was brown, drooped. The perennials pull back their life, their energy and let go of all that isn’t necessary, waiting for the warmth to return, for it to be safe to bloom again.

 

The whole garden looked dead. Except for one plant. An Easter lily was in full bloom. Its delicate trumpets stood ready to proclaim: “life will come again!”

 

(Monty Python- “I’m not dead yet.” )

 

I’m not really a God sent me a sign type of person, but that lily was a reminder to me of God’s power for life. On Easter, we celebrate that God transforms a situation of grief into a cause for joy. Where there was death, there is life. New life comes out of suffering and death. This present moment isn’t all there is, but a new and better future is coming. Alleluia, Christ is Risen… and we shall arise.

 

But wow, it’s hard to trust that there will be new life when it feels like death. Or to look forward to healing when you’re sick. Or to think of planting a garden in peace when your land is trampled by armies.

 

 

 

Isaiah speaks of a shoot coming up out of the stump of Jesse. A tree cut down, and yet, somehow, coming back to life. This little twig of life holds the promise of a strong trunk supporting thick limbs. In due time.

 

The people of God have had plenty of times in which everything looked hopeless. They were a tiny nation, constantly conquered by neighboring nations who were stronger than them: Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia… there were even wars between factions within the community. Through Isaiah, God promises that there will be life springing out of what was once cut down. The remnant will not be wiped out, but will grow.

 

This shoot from a stump, like my blooming lily, is a sign that life is not done yet. There’s reason to hope. God is here.

 

The lily’s blooming was out of season. Its trumpet didn’t wake all the other slumbering plants. It was a herald of things to come. There will be a full bloom in the garden this spring.

 

Jesus’ resurrection is a sign of what is to come. God will restore all things. God will bring all creation to life. This new life will be like Isaiah’s vision of the holy mountain, where even the natural need of predators to kill will be fulfilled with peace, and all creatures will be safe.

 

This season of Advent isn’t just about counting down to Christmas. We’re preparing not only for the baby in the manger, but for the Savior who will come again. We’re waiting and expecting Jesus to come and finalize his work.

 

What do we imagine God is going to do with all the pain of the world?

 

First, God feels it. God doesn’t just look down on us from some heavenly realm and feel bad for us. God comes into creation to share all of human life, including its pain. More than that, as Jesus dies on the cross, Jesus pulls onto himself all the pain of the world. Betrayed, rejected, cursed, banished, and tortured, Jesus- God in the flesh- feels all the worst. No matter what we experience, we are not alone, Jesus is there, not afraid to come near to our suffering, because he’s been there, too.

 

Today, God continues to carry our pain. Jesus walks with us, through whatever comes in life. We experience God’s support for us through prayer, worship, the sacraments, and our community. God puts people in our lives who embody God’s love and support for us. That’s part of the work we do here in this congregation for each other. As we care for each other, being there in both difficult and joyful times, Jesus loves through us.

 

 

One day, God will wipe all pain away. The world will be transformed. We will be transformed. There will be wholeness of life that will never end. The bloom of Jesus’ resurrection will spread over all of us, and we will know the joy of Jesus’ conquering of death, sin, and evil.

 

God’s promise to Isaiah’s listeners was spoken through images that translated their present pain into future joy. Where in your life do you need new life? This week, pray for God to give you a vision of what it would look like for God to heal struggle and widen joy in your life. Pray also for the eyes to see signs of that good future coming. May you have time to notice glimpses of life, even when you see life drawing back, and faith to trust that God will bring you into a fully bloomed creation again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is paired with a Gospel telling of John shouting at the crowds. While it might be fun to play the part of John the Baptist, it certainly isn’t fun to be yelled at.

 

But I know I yell when I’m afraid someone’s not paying attention and they might miss something that is life or death.

 

Of my children, the little one is a runner and the big one is a dreamer. Lydia would just as soon run away from me in the parking lot because she thinks it’s funny and she loves to be chased. Laila would be dancing around assuming everyone in the world is watching out for her.

 



Prepare the Way: A Sermon for Advent 2: Matthew 3:1-12, Romans 15:4-13, Isaiah 11:1-10

Grace and peace to you, sisters and brothers in Christ.

Today we gather with John the Baptist’s words ringing in our ears: “Prepare the way of the Lord!”

Does anyone know how many days are left until Christmas? Maybe some of the kids among us? There are 16 days and 14 hours until Christmas. Not too long at all. Because of this countdown, the word “Prepare” starts my heart racing and my head pounding. There’s too much left on my list to do before Christmas! Thinking of preparations fills me with anxiety and a sinking feeling that this year, like so many before it, will be another one in which I’m up past midnight finishing presents, and even so, many things will be left undone.

So when I hear John the Baptist echoing Isaiah’s call through the centuries all the way to us here today, I feel more than a little overwhelmed. More preparations? This time for Jesus? What does that even look like?

John calls the people before him to prepare for the Lord by repenting and being baptized. For them, this is a call to a new way of life, signified by the washing and drowning in the water. That leaves me wondering- what more does God want us to do? What in my life needs to be remade? And it leaves me exhausted—what power do I have to make my heart – my life- perfect enough to be anything like a straight path for the Lord to enter?

At this point of frustration and even despair, I find myself thinking that maybe I’m doing this Advent thing all wrong. So often we talk about Advent as a season of preparation. And we know it is that- preparation for Christmas, preparation for welcoming baby Jesus to the manger. But it’s important not to be confused about the worth of our preparations. It’s not my preparation- or your preparation- that makes Jesus come to us or not. Just like we don’t go through Lent and Holy Week wondering whether or not Jesus will really be risen on Easter Sunday, we don’t go through Advent wondering whether or not Jesus will choose to be born a human baby. Jesus has already come- entering that stable, entering First Century Palestine, entering our day and our lives.

John the Baptist quotes Isaiah as it was written in Greek, but in the original Hebrew the word order might be a little different. So Isaiah   reads: The voice of one crying out, “In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord.” Maybe that doesn’t sound like much of a difference, but if I think of my life, I think it’s often closer to the wilderness, with ups and downs, false starts, broken hopes, and best intentions never coming to fruition, than it is to a perfectly straight and groomed road, sparkling with welcome and good works for God. Our lives might be more or less wild, rather than perfectly constructed, but Isaiah says that it’s in that wilderness, in us broken people that God will make a way to be present.

Advent is not so much a time of preparing for Baby Jesus to come but of celebrating that Jesus has come and is transforming us so that we might be part of the way- the path- the people of God.

As an example of what this straight way, this coming of Jesus into our world, looks like, we need to turn to our reading from Romans 15. There we see a reflection on how Jesus is making a way in the midst of the newly emerging Christian communities. Most of the New Testament is really about how Christians relate to each other. It’s all about the struggle of making one community in Christ out of diverse people- rich and poor, women and men, employed and unemployed, married and unmarried, sick, disabled, healthy, full or hungry. One other division, the primarily expressed division is between two ethnic groups: Jews and Gentiles (Gentiles are everyone who isn’t Jewish).

Verses 5-7 are key here. Paul writes, “May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ as welcomed you, for the glory of God.”

The way of the Lord that Jesus is preparing in our midst is the community Jesus forms- it is all of us, with no one left out and everyone welcomed in.

Professor Valerie Nicolet-Anderson writes an insightful reflection on what this means for us:

 

Unity according to Christ also means that differences are not erased. Members do not have to conform to one particular pattern of behavior, but they do have to realize that the essential and defining character of their identity is now Christ.

 

Our churches too are called to this hospitality. This hospitality is not a lukewarm sort of welcome that would translate in letting anyone come in as long as they adapt to what is considered the “strong” position in the church (Romans 15:1), conform to the customs of the established church, or follow the agenda established by the ones in charge inside the community.

Rather, the welcome Paul has in mind threatens the ones who offer it. It pushes them to the threshold of the community and forces them to accept those who come as they are, without seeking to first transform them so that they adapt to the dominant practice. The criterion is the ethos of Christ, and this criterion is one that does not seek to change those who come to Christ.

Professor Nicolet Anderson’s words hit right at what we typically envision as helping people into the church. I look at the way we teach children to be, how we teach newcomers to be in church. I think of how often the refrain “This is how we do it” can be heard coming from well-meaning church folk. And I think of how hard it can be to welcome new ideas and ways of doing things.

When we struggle with inclusion in our own congregation, we join a struggle that has been part of the church since the beginning. It’s a struggle that Jesus helps us with— a straight path that Jesus is leveling out of the mixed desires we carry into this community.

Jesus comes as the one promised to the Jews, but for the benefit of the Gentiles as well. He comes for all people- to form among all of us collectively a way for God to work in this world. Maybe John the Baptist’s words for us would be – prepare to be prepared! And prepare to be surprised- the work of God through Jesus doesn’t always match our expectations or perceived needs.

The big thing to remember this Advent is that the best preparation you can do is to set aside all expectations other than that God is coming into your life and is going to shake things up! Your vision and your expectations aren’t likely to match God’s. But God’s is so much better.

As we prepare for Christmas in our homes, we often carry a vision of what it will be like, or what it should be like: smiling family and friends, all getting along; a table spread with delicious food; perfect presents; and decorations that look like your house belongs in Martha Stewart or Country Living or any number of blogs you’ve found through Pinterest.

It’s this expectation that causes so much stress over the holidays. We think we know what will make us happy. So we set unrealistic expectations on ourselves – and even try to control our guests and family members- to achieve this vision of Christmas perfection.

God invites you to let go of the expectation that it’s up to you to create the best Christmas or even the best Christian community. Let go of the stress that comes from trying to control the outcome of your work and the way other people will be. Live in the joy and freedom that Jesus is building in our midst. The way Jesus is leveling among us is a path that rejoices in God’s presence.

 

 



Darkness and Decorations: A Sermon for Advent 1

Grace and peace to you, sisters and brothers in Christ.

 

I’ve been thinking about fear lately. More specifically, about when we learn to fear and how we come to decide what is scary and what is not. Helping a two-year old navigate her world brings up these kinds of questions. As evening falls, her little, insistent voice is just beginning to say things like, “It’s dark, Mommy, I’m scared.”

 

There is something within us and something perfectly rational about being afraid of the dark. Shadows obscure the reality of things. Darkness prevents us from seeing and avoiding dangers. What would otherwise be useful tools: knives, scissors, garden hoes, even coffee tables, can all become quite harmful when we blindly stumble into them. If we can’t see or know what’s right in front of us, we have reason to fear, because approaching them improperly could be dangerous.

 

We’ve been traveling deeper into a season of fewer and fewer hours of natural daylight. Without the help of street, yard, or car lights, it can feel blinding to be out in the dark. We might wonder what dangers are out there, just beyond our sight.

 

We put lights around our homes and towns to keep us safe. I think of those automatic motion detector lights, designed to scare away intruders. They work not only to protect against things outside me. They also help illumine the way from my car to the door as I try to balance bags of Christmas goodies.

 

During hours of darkness, we keep lights lit as we live our days vigilant, looking out, for the things we fear. This is the kind of vigilance Jesus seems to speak of at the end of our reading from Matthew. Keep awake! The homeowner wouldn’t have broken vigilance and gone to bed if he knew a thief was coming to rob him. So keep the security lights on! Lock your doors! Don’t leave your car running unlocked as you try to defrost it before heading to work or school! Look out for danger!

 

I think many of us know the vigilance that comes from fear. As I think of parents sending their children off to college, I remember my own mother’s forwarded emails of the various things to be afraid of- scams and kidnappers and other dangers. Smart phones and social networking make sharing these warnings even easier today. With a simple click, we can share another’s advice to look out for the next danger.

 

Our gospel has some scary and confusing images: a reminder of the deadly flood, a vision of people being swept away, a thief coming in the night. These images are juxtaposed with the sense that God is doing something really big and unexpected in sending the messiah. Jesus wants us to be on the alert for this action — but I don’t think we need to fear this work of God. Instead, Jesus is inviting us to transfer our state of high alert and our willingness to share warnings of danger into a way of anticipating and proclaiming God’s life-giving action.

 

What would it be like if we were vigilant for works of joy? How would our lives, our community, be different if we were always on the lookout to spot the first signs of joy- or of love- or of life-giving transformation breaking into our world? What would it be like if we spent half as much time sharing news of God working in our lives and communities as we spend sharing news of fear?

 

On Thanksgiving morning, I took a little drive to get out of a house consumed with last minute packing, toddler bathing, and general house scrubbing, as I prepared for a time of worship. Sometimes I like silence in the car when I’m alone, but that morning I flipped on Wisconsin Public Radio. The call in program asked people to share about the best gifts they’ve received or given. People shared amazing stories of generosity and relational turning points. Some shared of organs donated or received in life-giving surgeries. One woman spoke of an unexpected embrace from a brother who rarely showed his love, and his offer to do the family’s dishes so she could play a game with her niece. For a whole hour, people called in to share news of joy, love, and generosity– selfless acts that I believe God makes possible in our lives. This was broadcast all over the state and available online.

 

It made me wonder- where and how are we sharing news of the ways we reflect and experience reflections of God’s love? Jesus came into our world, into human life, to declare God’s love and welcome for all people. Jesus makes possible a change of heart, an act of selfless generosity, and hope even in the face of despair.

 

With Thanksgiving over and Advent begun, many people are starting to transform their homes for Christmas. The mini transformations that are occurring are a sign to point us towards the transformation God is working in our world. God has come to us as Jesus, the incarnate one, the baby in the manger. But Jesus’ coming is not the only work of God we celebrate during Advent. This is a time to expect that God is still at work to break into our lives and bring a life-giving change.

 

In this season of increased darkness, we use lights to push back the darkness and reveal what is in front of us. The lights of candles and Christmas lights remind us to look into the darkness with hope.

 

One of my favorite things to do in this season is to drive around neighborhoods to see everyone’s decorations. It gives me the sense of the whole community becoming aware of the joy of this season. In a way, it reminds me of our reading from Isaiah.

 

Isaiah speaks the word that God shows to him. God offers a vision of a changed world, in which all the nations will recognize God’s presence and wisdom. The world will be so changed that war and weapons will no longer be useful. Isaiah offers this vision after acknowledging the destruction that is a part of his world. We know that destruction and danger are a part of our world today, but God invites us to also look forward with hope- hope and trust- for a new future of peace and joy for all peoples and nations.

 

Among all the choices for decorations, from inflatable santas to elegant wreaths, the one thing featured in most homes will be lights.  Instead of serving as increased security, they are meant for increased awareness of joy and hope- a celebration of God’s coming into our lives. The next time you notice Christmas lights, I pray that you also take a moment to notice one way God is working in your life and our world. Use the opening this season provides in conversation to share your own experience of God’s coming- God’s Advent. Invite someone else into this joy.

 

God has come to exchange your fear for joy. Rejoice! Share the good news. 



The Beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ: A sermon on Mark 1
December 4, 2011, 8:19 am
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“Once upon a time…” 

“It was a dark and stormy night…” 

“In a galaxy far, far away…”

The most important words of any good story are the very first ones. They transport the listener to a new place and time, opening her mind to experiencing something new, created by the words and the story they conjure. Any good writer knows that a beginning either hooks in a reader, or loses him. 

 

Today we hear: “The beginning…”

And we are at the edge of our seats, waiting to hear how the great story of our salvation unfolds. 

 

The Gospel of Mark opens, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” And then, rather than pulling the curtain back on a manger scene, Mark continues by going all the way back to the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah. Right away we have a disorienting setting shift. Just as we might have been settling back into our cozy chair, we’re startled into sitting up straight, ears wide open. The authors says, “Ah, you thought you knew how this story goes, that you could skim through it all, but pay attention, there’s more to the story!”

 

The “beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ” doesn’t begin with Jesus’ incarnation, its beginning is located even farther back. Mark writes, “As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, ‘See I am sending my messenger who will prepare your way.’” Mark casts our search for the true beginning all the way back to Isaiah. God’s work was at hand hundreds of generations before. 

 

But now we’re awake, on the lookout for the deeper story behind these words. Being wiser from Mark’s gotcha moment, we wonder if there might be even more to the beginning than Isaiah. Does the “beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” start even further back? 

 

Where does this good news really begin? 

 Mark sends us searching: What other beginnings does this Holy Book offer? I go all the way back to the very beginning, Genesis, which literally means “coming into being, beginning, or birth.” Book 1, chapter 1, verse 1: “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” 

 

In the beginning was God. There was nothing else, nothing other than God’s presence. Nothing was separate from God. Then God created. Molded, breathed into, spoken over: creation came into being from God’s presence. 

 

This sounds like the real beginning! 

 

At the very beginning, there was only God. There was nothing without God. Nothing waited for God’s coming. God acted, God brought forth, God made possible all of creation’s coming. 

 

The beginning of the good news goes all the way back to “The Beginning” when God first chose to form and breath life into creation. There is good news for us of God having a special relationship with the human creatures God formed in God’s own image. God entered into promise-relationship, covenant, with certain people, blessing, teaching, guiding, and protecting them. Generations witness to the power of God in the midst: their stories fill up our Old Testament. 

 

Mark launches us to find the beginning of the “good news” and we are cast all the way back to the very, very beginning, but Mark’s witness reminds us that this good news finds its central moment at the incarnation, when God took on flesh, when Jesus was born among us, as one of us. The separations that split God and creation as a result of sin begin to be sewn closed. 

 

The good news of God’s coming is centered in Jesus Christ. In Jesus, God fully comes into creation. Jesus embraces all of creation, embraces us. Jesus’ incarnation and Jesus’ teaching are vital to the story of God’s work among us. But Jesus’ death on the cross is the most important. 

 

The cross stands as the center of all time. It is the most decisive moment of God’s revelation and action for us. There God comes into all creation- entering even what was not part of the original creation: death and suffering. The cross changes all our assumptions about God and our lives. Jesus’ actions on the cross reveal a God who chooses to act in faithfulness and love for you. You can do nothing more evil than what was done by those who betrayed, scorned, rejected, and killed the Son of God. Yet Jesus will do for you as he does for those, Jesus forgives. Jesus loves. Jesus reaches out to embrace and drawn in to God’s embrace those who have turned their backs on him. 

 

Jesus’ action on the cross and God’s affirmation in Jesus’ resurrection propels us and this good news story on into the future. As Jesus reaches out and holds onto all creation, Jesus will restore and renew all things. As Jesus rose from the dead, Jesus will raise all who have died. The story of the good news of Jesus Christ will end with a glorious healing of all hurts, an exchange of tears for laughter, and life in the presence of God forever. 

 

I know there are some people, even some among us, who don’t read a story in the order you’re supposed to read a story. They don’t start with that opening line and follow along through the pages one by one until they reach the back cover. Some people read that opening line and then flip to the very end and read the last! They read the beginning, and then the ending, and then if it’s good enough, they read everything in between. 

 

As we prepare for Christmas, many people are reminded of the baby Jesus. It might be that the images of a baby in a manger and hope of heaven is all people really know about Christianity. As much as a static manger scenes might depict otherwise, God’s coming is not a one-time-event, not a historical moment to be written and the book closed. It’s not as if the world was devoid of God’s presence before Jesus’ birth, and now, after his death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, is without his presence once again until some future return. 

 

Baby Jesus and heaven might be the book ends people think the most about. But there is more to the story than a historical moment and a future hope. Those who focus on the two ends are missing out! This story of the good news is being told right now. 

 

We live this middle part of the story today. We enter this story in the waters of our baptism. We call the water of the font storied water, because it carries the promise of God. It is steeped in the witness of the generations who have experienced God’s fulfilling of promises: to give life, forgiveness, and a future. We are carried by this water into God’s promises: the good news. It becomes our life narrative. Our story. The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ is the beginning of the good news that is for you! God created for you, God became incarnate for you, God acts in mercy and love for you! 

 

We both proclaim and take on authorship of this story today. It is our story, and so we are called to share it. We live in the love of God, and it is our joy to share this love. As our world celebrates this season, we are given the opportunity to name the author of the good news which causes us to celebrate. Wish people a Merry Christmas, and be open to explaining what Christmas means for you: a God who comes into our world, who works for peace and life, and who promises to heal all hurts. 

 

Mark’s opening launches us not only into the book of Mark, but into the big book, the whole story, of “good news.” From cover to cover, beginning to end, embodied in us: the story of the good news of God’s action in Jesus Christ is proclaimed. This Advent, celebrate God’s coming for you: at creation, at Jesus’ incarnation, and at the present and future: as the dawn breaking on the horizon to bring the new day of wholeness and peace. Mark’s beginning might be the hook that pulls us in, but once drawn in, we find ourselves immersed in a story that had been going on for generations, all the way back since creation, and continues on in us today.