Grace Notes - with Pastor Liz
Grace Notes with Pastor Liz
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, "See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,' " John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." Mark 1:1-8
There is not much about the Christmas story that makes sense. Have you noticed that? In the familiarity of the story, a story many of us have heard our whole lives, it can be easy to forget how utterly absurd the Christmas story is. Angels appearing in the middle of the night to shepherds to tell of God- THE God- being born nearby in a middle-of-nowhere kind of town to an unmarried couple. And this God, who is supposed to be a king, is born not in a hospital, or an inn, or even a house, but a barn full of smelly animals. This seems like it isn’t how the story is supposed to go.
The story of Jesus begins before the angels even appeared to Mary, and in the gospel of Mark, this story begins with John the Baptist. John the Baptist epitomizes the unexpectedness of the Jesus story. John was probably not who we would have picked to proclaim the most important news in the world. He was a loner, an outcast, and kind of weird. He ate locust, and wore bizarre clothes, and had wild hair. He wasn’t much for pleasantries or polite conversation, he would proclaim to strangers abruptly, immediately, and loudly, “Prepare the way of the Lord!”
But perhaps the most absurd part of John the Baptist’s story is his message about God’s grace made alive in baptism. John proclaims that forgiveness of sins is found in baptism. This is radical. No longer do people have to keep score, weighing each sin against a tally of good deeds, attempting to follow the law to the letter and feeling despair when they don’t measure up. God’s promise of forgiveness is a gift we receive simply because of God, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t necessarily make sense. It doesn’t have to. Faith and grace are illogical, a joy and peace beyond all understanding.
This Advent season we consider how we might be preparing the way for Christ to enter our own hearts, perhaps in ways we’ve not yet experienced. Maybe it’s taking time during a hectic holiday season to really recognize that presents and lavish food are not what makes the season, but quality time with friends, and quality time of prayer. Maybe it’s reconsidering difficult issues, and recognizing the many sides to complicated stories, and trying to understand how God work in folks different from us. I know, for me, this Advent season has been one of letting go of trying to manufacture or control everything. God works in God’s own way, and too often my worrying gets in the way of God’s actions. However you might prepare for God’s way, may you do it with the confidence that God’s love and forgiveness is and always will be a gift for you, freely given beyond your own action, sin, or doubt. God loves you, and reminders of God’s love is made alive each Christmas season.