Can you imagine living in the segregated South of the 1950s where African Americans were banned from public facilities; where black schools, hospitals, and neighborhoods were
under resourced; where dissent was silenced by lynchings, beatings, even bombings? And can you imagine, after decades of discrimination, somebody racing down the street shouting, “He’s here! The one we have been waiting for! The one who’s going to mobilize the masses to defy racism, end segregation, and restore the dignity of African Americans. His name is Martin Luther King. His weapons are love and compassion. He’s mobilizing hope. I’m telling you, the time has come. The people are rising.”
Can you imagine the people on the banks of the Jordan who first hear John the Baptist? For generations, the Israelites have proclaimed Isaiah’s hope—in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, for God is coming to restore God’s people. And now, after centuries of suffering, the herald announces that the time of God’s arrival has come! It is happening as he speaks. God, already, is coming down the highway.
John is the messenger Isaiah had promised centuries before. John embodies his role as a prophet. He dresses like Elijah, eats like Daniel, and experiences God’s coming, not in the ecclesiastical and political centers but in the wilderness. And in the wilderness, John speaks Isaiah’s electrifying words. The One we have been waiting for . . . our hope and salvation . . . is coming—now.
Within our contemporary wildernesses, prophets have arisen: ambassadors of hope, mobilizers of transformation. Their voices cry out in the desert, “It is happening. Gather with the faithful. Rise up from oppression. God is coming. Here. Now.” Can you imagine?
O God, may we hear the voice of your prophets who assure us that our cries have been heard; you are on the way. Amen.
Hopeful anticipation characterizes this week’s texts. God’s people have come to terms with their inability to save themselves. Isaiah 40 states that Jerusalem has “served her term” in bondage to sin; a new era is about to dawn. Psalm 85 continues the theme of old sins forgiven, emphasizing an urgent need for some fresh outbreak of God’s initiatives. Harmonious and responsible relationships are to dominate the hearts of the people. Thoughts of righteousness and peace also pervade the passage from 2 Peter 3. Yet the focus is clearly on Christ’s Second Advent. His coming will be sudden and unannounced; the new creation will then appear. The Gospel text focuses on the earthly ministry of Jesus as John the baptizer comes to sensitize all hearts to the advent of the One promised long ago.
• Read Isaiah 40:1-11. God’s word of comfort brings challenge as well: How are you preparing the way of the Lord?
• Read Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13. What glimpses of heaven in your daily life give you con dence in God’s steadfast love?
• Read 2 Peter 3:8-15a. How are you using this time of Advent waiting to move toward more faithful living?
• Read Mark 1:1-8. John identified himself as “messenger.” How would you identify your role in working toward the reign of Christ?
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