Scripture for Meditation: Mark 1:1-8
I often marvel about the anticipation found around the month of December. As a child we sit, stand and fret with the anticipation of gifts we will receive, while we write lists of everything we could ever desire. The small and large items we hope, pray, and wish we would see under the tree on Christmas morning. As adults we anticipate other things. Some of us can’t wait to see the look on the faces of our friends, family, and children as they open the colorfully wrapped packages. Others anticipate supporting the various mission activities of Evangelical Friends Missions that they have the opportunity to support. Many of us also anticipate the various parties our friends, family and businesses through to ring in the season. Anticipation is part of the season; it is kind of the whole point of the season.
For four hundred years Israel was in a state of anticipation. They lived under the rule of foreign leaders from two different empires and they anticipated the hopeful return to Jerusalem. Nehemiah brought them back to that city and rebuilt the walls. Yet they yearned for more. Babylon destroyed Solomon’s temple so although some people came back to Jerusalem they felt that God was not there because there was no center for worship. The Hebrew people yearned for a place to fulfill their need and desire to worship their God. So a rabbi and priest, Ezra, inspired them to rebuild the house of God. With a rebuild city and temple they still longed for more. They as a nation had overlords first the Babylonians, then the Persians, and the Greeks. They gained independence for a time only to lose their freedom and again becoming subjects to others, the Romans. They lived in anticipation; they hoped and longed for life with God free to live in a home of their own in His kingdom.
We can understand the thoughts and longings they had. Our children look forward to different ages of 5, 10, 16, 18, 20 and 21 for various reasons. They long to go to school, see double digits, drive, go to college and become an adult. As adults we look to those ages too, but we can’t go back. We have collective dreams. One of the most famous speeches in our history was a speech about hope and anticipation, when Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I have a dream…” he was saying I have a dream, hope, desire, and longing.
Advent is a time of longing, longing for hope to be revealed, a longing for the revelation of and fulfillment of those ultimate cultural changing events. The problem with advent is everyone is looking, seeing something only to be let down again and again. They seek and scour scriptures and other holy writings seeking the will or knowledge of God yet they find themselves chasing wind.
The kingdom of God has been a goal of humanity from the earliest days. A nation, a world rather, led and run on principles of morality and honesty where no one is taken advantage of and all have what they need, a utopia. This goal was what caused Abraham, the father of Hebrews and Christians alike, to move out in faith. This dream caused Moses and Joshua to brave the wilderness to bring the children of Israel to the land of promise. This same goal caused my own ancestors to brave the waters to conduct the holy experiment called Pennsylvania. The problem with this kingdom is it is filled with people. People desire and like power and control, they also like to keep what they have. The nation of Israel fell many times because they did what seemed right in their own hearts. They ruled not out of charity but selfishness and greed. They fell to be ruled not by God but by the Philistines, Assyrians, and others. When they fell people emerged that were called and lead by God to bring order back to the land.
As we consider this time period, we again see the people of Israel floundering in the waters of human ambition and a man named John began to preach. He stood on the banks of the Jordan yelling at anyone who would listen, “Repent, turn around, turn back to God.” He then made them pass through the water to show the cleansing from sin. What was he doing, was he trying to start a new religion? No, he was standing on a high point overlooking the end of one age and the beginning of another.
He was the son of a priest as we learn in other gospel accounts. Not jus any priest but a high-ranking priest able to enter the holy areas of the temple. John knew what it meant to be a child of God. Yet he was not in the temple like his father, he was out in the desert of Jordan, preaching. He was an observer of the culture, a student of scripture, and a man devoted to God, willing to do what it too to pass the message on to others. The temple in all its glory was not getting the whole truth to the people. It provided a nice activity to cause others to perceived holiness but he saw that the demands of Got were greater than what the temple required. God asks not for tithes and offerings, sacrifices and grandeur, but for devotion, mercy, charity, and all areas of your life.
John called them to repent for the advent of God was at hand, and not one of them was ready. Not the most devoted pries of the lowest slave were ready. They were all as devoted to God, as sanctified or set apart for God as the worst of the Gentiles. They did not deserve the kingdom of God.
He cried, “Repent! Turn around! Stop what you are doing and look back to God!”
He is out in the middle of nowhere wearing camel skins, and eating locus and honey. This could be one of two things. He could have eaten bugs or he also could have eaten bread made from a flour of ground locus tree beans. This would make very bitter bread, which would explain the need for honey. But why did he do this? Our culture devotes huge amounts of money to fashion and food. To entertainment and leisure. John wore coarse clothes and ate bitter bread so he could devote more to serving people. He chose to live without luxury so other could find hope. And hop they found.
Advent is a season of anticipation of a coming age, an age of Christ the King. John this great preacher said I am not the one but he is coming! I am not even worthy to untie his shoes, yet He is near. I, John says, give a symbolic gesture of washing you with water to represent the forgiveness of sin, but He will actually saturate you with the very Spirit of God. It’s coming! The old will pass away and something new and greater will come. The blind will see, the lame will walk, and the hungry will eat. The day of the Lord is near at the very door.
Its coming, a new age is emerging before our very eyes. It’s not found in the grandeur of our temples made by man, but it is in the lives of mankind. Advent the anticipation the coming of hope is at hand, and where are you? Repent and be saturated not by water but the Spirit of God. Let us be instruments of hope, of peace, and of food rich in nourishment for the body and soul. The Day of the Lord is here. I don’t mean that the end of time is here, but the day, the time where God will write His will on the hearts and minds of His people is here. The day where the devoted will not only know and speak scripture, but will act according to the direction God leads. The day where the people of God will devote all aspects of their lives to loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit, and living Christ’s love with others.
We live in advent every day; we live with anticipation, in hopes and dreams. We are not that different from those people listening to this camel fur wearing, bug eating preacher. But what will we do in our anticipation? Will we just sit here in our meetinghouses, or churches, waiting for time to pass? Or will we walk with God in Christ under the direction of the Spirit. We live at the advent of something great, we are here not because we hope Christ will do something but we are here expecting Him to. As you reflect on this passage as you meditate and pray examine your desires and dreams. Ask God if He is calling you to do more in your life. And let us all not just sit around saying things, but also let us actively follow Him mind, body and spirit.