December 2017

Post date: Nov 30, 2017 5:21:21 PM

Dear People of God,

“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Mark 1:1. On Sunday, December 3rd we begin a new church year and the season of Advent. It is the Year of Mark. That is, most of our Sunday gospel readings will come from the Gospel of Mark, rounded out with generous helpings from the Gospel of John. Many scholars think Mark is the earliest of the four biblical gospels, put into written form around 70 AD. Mark is also the shortest of the gospels. Some have described Mark as a passion narrative with a long introduction. Fully a third of the book (chapters 11-16) are dedicated to the last week of Jesus’ earthly life. Some have called Mark “The Go Gospel”, since Jesus is always on the go. “Immediately” is a favorite word in Mark. Mark’s style is fast-paced, lacking smooth transitions between episodes and spare in details. I would encourage you to read the whole Gospel of Mark in one sitting (or in a couple sittings) sometime this Advent season to get the full story line and flavor of it. It’s not long: only 16 chapters.

“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”. The gospel hits the ground running with the prophet John in the wilderness, baptizing people for repentance and crying out, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Mark gives us no birth narrative, but he tells us clearly that Jesus is the true Son of God and that Jesus, the Messiah, is good news. And Jesus is good news (gospel), because he dies to forgive the sins of all people, and rises from death to give true and lasting life.

Advent. During most of December we are in the season of Advent. As you may well know, “advent” means the coming: the arrival. Advent is a season of waiting and preparation. But it’s not really the commercial, consumer preparation bombarding us everywhere. It is the preparation of minds and hearts to meet our Savior Jesus. Prayer, worship, Bible study, holy communion: these are good ways to prepare ourselves. We prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birthday, his first advent among us as a tiny human baby: the miracle of Immanuel, God-with-us, in human flesh. We prepare for Jesus’ second coming among us at the end of time as Lord and Judge of all. And since we have absolutely no idea when this will be, we keep on living lives of faith and hope and commitment. And we prepare for what some have called Jesus’ third Advent: his third coming among us. This is simply Jesus’ constant presence with us now, (“I am with you always” Matt 28:20), through the Holy Spirit, on the faces of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and in the faces of our neighbors, especially our neighbors in need. The best way to prepare for Jesus’ advents among us is to follow his great commandment to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

May the Lord bless and keep you this Advent and Christmas season,

Pastor Dennis