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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Mark 1:1–8

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of the one calling out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight, “ John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sings. Now John was clothed with camel’s air, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild hones. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful that I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (NRSV)

At this point in December it can be easy to be sick of Christmas. Radio stations have been playing holiday music since the beginning of November. Stores have been decorated, homes have been festooned, and many an eggnog latte has been drunk over the last six weeks.

“John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

What a relief.

Into our world of excess comes austerity. Tinsel meets camel’s hair. Self-satisfaction runs smack into humility.

Late in this third week of Advent, we welcome John, weird and wild, who redirects our attention and, hopefully, stops us short. In Mark’s Gospel there’s no time for backstory or froufrou. The news is urgent. Mark’s insistence on our readiness, and the way he tells the story, makes that clear. In this Gospel’s opening, suddenly John is just there, in the desert, a place of harshness and danger. And people come to him, even though it’s a place where there’s nothing to decorate or festoon. Even though it’s a place where they can’t hide from anything, even their sins. Even though he tells them things they don’t understand.

In the midst of the frenzy, let’s join them for a moment. Let’s listen for the voice of the one crying out and wonder about the One who is coming.

God of the desert, who sent John to get our attention, interrupt us. Quiet our hearts and focus our gaze, so that we may see what is about to unfold. In the name of the One who is coming and is with us now. Amen.

Written by Susan Quaintance, Director, Center for Life and Learning

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