As the big commercial push of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, etc. recedes (after more than a week of each!), the urgency of preparation in a different way for Christmas emerges more strongly. Interestingly, the word prepare is the theme in every one of the readings for this morning, beginning in the Hebrew Scriptures with the foreshadowing message of the prophet Isaiah (40:1-5) centuries before the birth of Jesus. Psalm 85 echoes the prophetic words: Justice shall walk before him and prepare the way of his steps.” For those who recognized Jesus as the one spoken of by Isaiah, John the Baptist appears at the very beginning of Mark’s gospel as “a voice of one crying out in the desert” proclaiming the same theme: Prepare the way of the Lord!
By the time the gospel of Mark was written about 40 years after the Resurrection, belief in Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophecies had taken hold in many places in the known world. We have the letters of those apostles who became missionaries of the “good news” urging faithfulness to Christ and his message of God’s love. In those early years, their understanding of the prophecies and the words of Jesus had convinced the Christians that the end of the world as they knew it would be coming soon and Christ would appear to take them to their next life in the kingdom of heaven, a realm of peace and justice. The fact that we are still here does not negate the importance of the messages to the early Christians about preparing “as we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” The second letter of Peter (3:8-14) asks us to reflect on a great question as we wait – maybe the perfect one for a Sunday in Advent:
What sort of persons ought you to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion…?