Yesterday, we wrestled with our often faulty thinking of God as slow to respond, or even that He is uncaring. Let’s continue to reorient our hearts and minds toward the truth that God is actually being patient and merciful with us, giving us time to want Him more than we want a quick fix. As you worship today, where do you sense God is being patient with you this Advent season? Talk to God about that.
2 Peter 3:9 Common English Bible (CEB)
9 The Lord isn’t slow to keep his promise, as some think of slowness, but he is patient toward you, not wanting anyone to perish but all to change their hearts and lives.
- What are you bringing to this prayerful time with God today (worries, hopes, fears, etc.)?
- As we now move into our second week, start to bring before God your deepest desire. What are you most hoping for when He comes? Why do you desire this? What does God think about it?
Allow yourself whatever time is necessary here in prayer to get in touch with this deep longing of your soul while allowing God to speak.
Mark 1:1-8 Common English Bible (CEB)
Beginning of good news
1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s Son happened just as it was written about in the prophecy of Isaiah:
Look, I am sending my messenger before you.
He will prepare your way,
3 a voice shouting in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way for the Lord;
make his paths straight.”
4 John the Baptist was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins. 5 Everyone in Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River and were being baptized by John as they confessed their sins. 6 John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He announced, “One stronger than I am is coming after me. I’m not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Encountering the Gospel
Today, let’s enjoy this passage of scripture as a participant. Much too often, we engage scripture as a text to be studied and ironically miss the point of the lesson.
During the time of Isaiah, and centuries later during Jesus’ time, these sacred texts were preserved and passed to the next generations as oral tradition – they were read aloud.
They were often performed by someone who had memorized every jot and tittle of the traditional story being handed down. Every detail was important. The listener had to know the story inside and out, even to the point of being able to convey emotion and tone if they were ever to get the message being preserved.
Side note: I’ve often wondered what a “jot” and “tittle” even are – they are such funny words! A “jot” is a Hebrew word that means a “very small amount,” like “iota.” And a “tittle” signifies something even smaller. Jesus famously referred to these words in Matthew 5:18.
When someone was orating these generational stories, every detail was important because the listeners encountered scripture much more like an active participant in the story than as a student sitting in a classroom listening to a lecture. This was because they knew they were living the story in that day, they knew they were the continuation of a story still being written. This is how our spiritual forefathers engaged with what we call scripture today.
Let’s meet this weird stranger, John the Baptist
Today, let’s follow their example and listen in on John the Baptist as a participant. Imagine you were there by the Jordan river listening to John.
You may note they were in the desert wilderness. Is that significant? They left their homes in the countryside and in the cities to come hear this strange man. How would that make you feel? Would you be filled with wonder, fear, hope?
And what was John wearing? Goodness gracious, camel hair jeans? John’s clothes were of the traditional type worn by ancient Hebrew prophets, true, but this was not common during this time and would have surely caught your attention.
Is your image of John one of a strong man, sort of rugged and outdoorsy? Is it notable that John says someone stronger is coming?
We’ve never met this Jesus
What were the expectations of those who came to hear John? There was public confession going on, maybe even in spite of the embarrassment.
Obviously many were changing their lives and publicly being baptized. What were their expectations of this “One who is stronger” that is coming? Would He be a ruler, a king? Would he put the oppressive Romans in their place? What are your expectations today during this Advent season, who are you hoping Jesus comes to you as? A conquering king? A gentle shepherd? A rescuer?
This generational story is still being told today
Spend some time placing yourself prayerfully in this scene. Imagine what it would be like to go from the comfort of home to a hot and dry desert place. What sights, sounds and smells do you hear? Why is everyone listening to this strange man? Pray that the Holy Spirit would enrich your time and speak to you.
- During this Advent season, what is your hoped for image of the King that is coming?
- Are you willing to leave the comforts of home to go to a harsh desert to hear about this coming King?
- Are you willing to confess and be baptized?
Have you been praying for someone to receive the good news of Jesus as Lord? Today, pray that God would make this person’s path straight so that they might hear the good news of this coming King.
A Closing Prayer
Even today Your sacred word is alive and being passed on from generation to generation. Lord help me to live scripture and find Your life in me as I do so. Lord, speak to me through Your word.
This Evening and Tomorrow Morning
- This evening, continue again to worship through Psalm 80:3 as a personal prayer. Return to this often over this Advent season.
- Tomorrow morning, consider reading through Mark 1:1-8 a few times before starting your day, once again placing yourself in the scene and allowing the Holy Spirit to refine your expectations and hopes of who you believe this coming King is and what you desire from Him. Ask God to help you align your hopes with the vision of Jesus John the Baptist is proclaiming.
Scriptures from Our Advent Series
Texts for First Advent Week: Isaiah 64:1-9; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37; Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
Texts for Second Advent Week: Isaiah 40:1-11; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13; Mark 1:1-8