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Sunday in Advent (cycle b)

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Texts & Discussion:

Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
2 Peter 3:8-15a
Mark 1:1-8

Other Resources:


Matthew Henry,    Wesley

Word Study:

This Week's Themes:

2. Advent: Love
Christ's Second Coming
Repent and Prepare!



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a sermon based on Mark 1:1-8
by Rev. Rick Thompson

     Isn’t it striking how Mark begins his gospel?

     There’s no angel Gabriel, no Mary and Joseph, no shepherds or chorus of heavenly angels, no frazzled, overwhelmed innkeeper turning away the holy family, as we have in Luke’s Gospel.

     There’s no Joseph getting messages from God in his dreams, and no wise ones from the East following a star, like we have in Matthew. 

      And there’s none of the soaring language of the Gospel of John about the Word existing from the beginning, and co-creating with the Father, and then becoming flesh and dwelling among us, full of grace and truth, revealing the Father’s glory.

     Mark gives us none of that.  He simply declares, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

     Mark announces this is a beginning, declares it will be good news, and makes it clear the good news has to do with Jesus.

     And, the next thing we know, we’re not at a manger—we’re out in the wilderness.  We’re out in the wilderness, and we’re listening to a stern, urgent, wild-eyed prophet, wearing the strange dress and eating the bizarre diet of the ancient prophet Elijah, and proclaiming that God’s about to do something new.  There’s that voice in the wilderness, urging people to repent and be baptized, insisting that Messiah is coming any day, and calling upon them to get ready for what God is doing!

     A voice in the wilderness.

     The owner of that voice, John the Baptist, was living in a wilderness time.

     The people of God, the Jews, had waited a long time—a really loooooong time—for God to do something to deliver them.  It had been centuries since Isaiah reported the people’s cry—we heard it last week: “O Lord, why don’t you rip open the heavens and come down and save us!”  Centuries later, they were still waiting for God to show up, and their world was a mess.  Politically, religiously, economically, it was a mess: they were living under the harsh rod of Roman oppression, and their faith was fragmented into factions, and most of the people were poor.  It felt like a wilderness, a frightening, terrifying, death-dealing wilderness.

     And, if anything, it was worse by the time Mark wrote his gospel—perhaps 35 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus.  There was now an armed rebellion against Roman rule going on—a rebellion that would be crushed, and would end with the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D.  Those Jews who had become followers of Jesus were waiting for their Lord to return, and he seemed to be taking his sweet time about it, while they continued suffering under the Romans.  There was fear, and uncertainty, and chaos, and death. [continue]