Erica Lea-Simka serves as pastor of Albuquerque Mennonite Church. This post was originally published December 11, 2014.
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I lived my entire life in Texas. Now I live in Washington, D.C. where they have these magical machines called snow plows that clear off the road so cars can drive, people can bike, and children can skateboard around town. I have yet to experience my first bona fide snow storm, but I have been warned to move my car off of the street so that it will not be damaged when the snow plow comes through. In order for the path to be cleared, other things must move aside.
Today’s passage is Mark 1:1-8. The Gospel opens with charged political language. Terms like good news, Gospel, and Son of God were attributed to Caesar. Mark reappropriates these terms to Jesus the Christ in a deliberate statement to signal a shift from what was the previous reality of a cheap imitation of a savior to a reality being fulfilled where Jesus is the authentic ruler with divine authority. In order for Jesus’ path to be made clear, the other ruler must move aside and recognize Jesus’ supreme authority.
Mark continues with the story of John the Baptist or John the baptizer by reappropriating Isaiah 40 as prophecy for John, the one who continues to prepare the way for Jesus’ life and ministry. John is significant as Jesus’ cousin, a contemporary of Jesus, and as a prophet. John is a more just authority figure than Caesar and points to Jesus rather than himself, but he is still not The One.
To get to John in the wilderness was presumably dangerous and difficult for “all the people of Jerusalem”. To join John’s work of preparing for The Way of Jesus was even harder. To follow The Way of Jesus is the most difficult of all, and the most rewarding. John knew his place as a transitionary prophet whose purpose was to amplify Jesus’ message. In order for Jesus’ path to be made clear, John must yield himself on the path that was intended for Jesus to fill.
For some Christians, Advent is a time of penitence, taking away less important things so there is space for more important things; focusing less on temporary things in order to focus on more eternal things. Rather than Advent only being a time of adding even good things such as prayer, programs, and parties, consider reordering so that the path is clear for what is most important- Advent as a time of more closely following The Way, The Truth, and the Life.
Prepare the way for peace…
It is coming.
Prepare the way for justice…
It is coming.
Prepare the way for radical hospitality…
Now is the time.
Prepare the way for the new heaven and new earth…
Come quickly, Lord.
Prepare the way for Emmanuel…
He is here.
God with us, God among us.