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Second Sunday of Advent B

December 6, 2020

Mark 1: 1-8

By Rev. John Tran

This Second Sunday of Advent we hear the beginning of Mark’s gospel. This is a no frills gospel. Mark, from the beginning, emphasizes that Jesus comes out of the Hebrew tradition. We hear that John quotes the prophet Isaiah which we hear in the first reading: “A voice of one crying out in the desert.” He also quotes the prophet Malachai who warns Israel of the need of repentance: “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way.” So Mark reminds us of the origins of God’s long relationship with us from Moses and the prophets to the Christ. While John the Baptist offers nothing new, he tells us with urgency that the messenger is near, that God is sending his Anointed One, his Messiah. This is the culmination of God’s search to reach humankind, his effort to let us know him.

Last week, we were urged to be alert and watch. Today we learn what we are watching for, that is, the one who “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” We know who this is, don’t we. We do not need to be in suspense to find out. Yet, every year, we do need to watch in the right way, to recognize the one who comes to us. We can get so wrapped up in the physical getting ready, that we forget why in might be important to prepare a special meal to eat as Jesus often did with his disciples both before and after the resurrection. Do we remember why we want to give a gift to those we love and respect? Remember also that there are those in real material and spiritual need, whom we do not know, but who need us, need Jesus as a matter of life and death.

In our hurry to get ready for Christmas, we are taken up with the many voices who remind us, ‘hurry, its only three more weeks to Christmas; better get those cards out.’ We forget the smaller, quieter voice that invites us: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” The call to repentance can sometime be to refocus. It is a time to let others see Jesus by showing him in our words and actions.

But, we say, how can I really do this; so many need to see Jesus. One day, a man was walking along the shore. As he looked down the beach, he saw a boy reaching down to the sand, picking up something and very gently throwing it back into the sea. As he got closer, he called out, “Good morning, young man! What are you doing?” The young person paused, looked up and replied, “Throwing starfish into the sea.” Why are you throwing starfish into the sea?” the man asked. “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in they’ll die.” “But, don’t you realize that there are miles of beach here and starfish all along it. You can’t possibly make a difference!” The boy listened politely. Then he knelt down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves and said…”Made a difference to this one.” Advent is the time to make a difference in the life of somebody.

Today, right now, in this quiet moment, we can hear this voice. Mark, echoing Isaiah, is telling us to pause, to consider what we are doing, and prepare ourselves for the arrival of the Lord. Let us cut through the clutter that tempts us. Remember that the path between us and God, the path that opens before us from the moment we are born, is both simple and straight. We can walk that path any time; all we have to do is take the first step, then the next one. Let's make a difference.

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