Mark 1:1-8 | 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year B
What Do You Know For Certain?
On the Elon University chaplain’s blog a few weeks ago, the chaplain wrestled with what she knew for certain. There isn’t much that is guaranteed, she said, but she began with two things: “That God is love. That I am not God.”
As I read the gospel for this week, I thought that John the Baptist and the Elon chaplain have a lot in common. John, as hard as he tries to be holy with his itchy camel hair shirt and his meals of grasshoppers and honey, knows that while these things might help bring him closer to God, they don’t make him the Holy One. John knows, “One mightier than I is coming…” (v. 7). John is not the promised Messiah.
But, like the chaplain, John knows that God is love. John makes sure to tell the people that his gift to them, baptism with water, is a petty facsimile of the gift God will offer in His Love for us. “He will baptize you with the holy Spirit” (v. 8), the gift of His everlasting presence in their lives.
At Christmas, we receive this gift, the Baby in the manger. But long before the birth, that is, whenever we truly celebrate our Christmas and recognize the gift of His presence—He has begun to “prepare the way” (v. 2). He plows the field and pulls up the stones in our lives through the people like John—those who trumpet His coming and His goodness. He does it through the Marys—those who quietly say yes to a life-changing decision and see them through. Through the Josephs—those who follow through on their commitments. He does it through the Pauls—those who have a dramatic epiphany and completely change their life’s missions. He does it through the Elizabeths—those who wait patiently for His promises to come to fruition. He does it through the Thomases—those who doubt and then understand. He does it through the Marys and the Marthas, the Lazaruses, the Simon Peters—those who are His friends yet still struggle with the world.
John pointed the Way, he made people aware of the Messiah’s imminent arrival. Advent gives us time to do the same.
Who are the people that till our soil? The harvest is up to us—free will and all—but the tillers, God’s put them there for everyone. We just have to recognize them. After all, one of the only guarantees is that God is love, and we know love luxuriates in presence. He wants us with Him. A baby shows us the way; it’s up to us to follow it.