Dear Advent Pilgrims,
This Sunday our attention turns to John the Baptist, a persistent presence every Advent journey. He meets us, whether we are ready for him or not, to echo the challenge by the prophet Isaiah, the original “voice crying from the wilderness:”
“Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.”
The word “straight” is Mark’s favorite word. Its Greek form occurs seventeen times throughout his gospel, but it is translated in different ways. It most often occurs as immediately, (or “straightaway,” in the King James Version), which we tend to associate with being “instantaneous.”
But it also has the sense of being “straight up” or “straight forward.” Consider how this nuance changes the way some of these passages in Mark might be read:
- “Then Jesus perceived with clarity and focusin his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves.” (Mark 2:8)
- “But when the grain is ripe, he goes in with his sickle with discipline and efficiency, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:29)
- “But Jesus spoke to them with straight talk, and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’” (Mark 6:50)
- “Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Then he was able to see straight and true and followed him on the way.” (Mark 10:52)
From the beginning of his gospel until the very end, Mark’s primary concern is that we understand that living the life of Jesus involves focus, discipline, and intentionality. Follow the commandments. Don’t deviate. Stay focused and don’t lose track.
Our Advent series is called “What God Wants for Christmas,” and John calls us to put this one thing at the top of our gift-giving lift. Give God your obedience to the way and will of Christ in your life. Spend time over these coming days to confess openly and prayerfully all those things that have kept you from a full and free obedience to God.
According to Mark, there can be no better preparation for Christmas than the one you do in your own soul. Let us all prepare the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight.
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist