2 Peter 3:8-15; Mark 1:1-8

Friends, I’m afraid I have some bad news: Christmas isn’t coming this year. See, we follow a three-year cycle of scripture readings for worship, and each year more or less follows a different Gospel. So until a couple weeks ago, we were in Matthew, which has the story of Joseph’s faithfulness to Mary and the coming of the “Wise Men.” And next year, we’ll start a journey through Luke, which has the journey to Bethlehem, the shepherds, and all those angels. Well, this week we start a trip through Mark’s gospel, and… well, Mark doesn’t have a birth story. We just read the beginning of Mark’s gospel, and the very next verse is: “…Jesus came… and was baptized.” Boom. No starry night, no baby in a manger, just John the Baptizer and then Jesus.

But there’s good news: Jesus is coming! John proclaimed the coming of one who wields God’s limitless power to remake the world. Mark’s gospel may not be very Christmassy, but it’s certainly about the healing and transformative power of God. Jesus arrives in a world where all is not right – and we know that’s true – and Jesus gets right to work healing, teaching, praying, and inviting us into the life-giving way of God.

The bad news is, Jesus is not probably where you expect to see him. John announces his coming in the wilderness, out away from the well-fed, festively-clothed, warm, carol-singing places we want to be this holiday season. He’s out in the wilderness: the barren place of our hunger, for bread as well as for righteousness; the desert of our loneliness, for friends who understand as well as for ourselves in a busy and disembodying world; the jungle of our impatience for peace, in our homes and among the nations. Jesus is in the not-yet places of the world, where what we hope for is still on its way.

The good news is, that wilderness-messiah really is ready to remake the world. He proclaims the message of God’s new life, and he calls us into that very life. The early church, as in 2 Peter, was chomping at the bit for God’s life to take over. With them, with Christ, we can work to make a home for righteousness in the world.

The bad news is that we will need to be changed as well. Jesus’ first call to us, just like John’s call, is to turn away from our part in denying righteousness, holding each other in debt, and rejecting the gift of health and wholeness for ourselves and others. If God’s way is going to become a reality, then there there will have to be an end to violence, oppression, and alienation.

The good news is that we can indeed be changed. The world within and around us can be made right. Not easily, and perhaps not on this side of the veil, but the hope within us is real and meaningful. It’s that hope for a new world, that desire for something more, that makes it possible for us to grow and change. And we take the first step toward this transformation every time we acknowledge that we’re not there yet.

The bad news is that God won’t do it for us. God isn’t interested in capturing us and forcing us into the kingdom of heaven; she wants us all, each of us, to turn ourselves in. The beginning of the Gospel is deep honesty about who we are and what we’ve made of the world. It’s up to us, trusting in God’s grace, to acknowledge that we’ve made ourselves strangers to the Divine, that we’ve closed our eyes to the Light, that we’ve forgotten the truth that we are God’s own beloved people. Speaking that truth will always be a lament.

But the good news is, that truth is your friend, because God himself is your friend. Everything on earth will be laid bare, even the darkest and saddest parts. That truth and all our truth will be revealed by God’s holy light, because that’s what a relationship with God is about. And ultimately, that’s all God wants: a joyful, loving relationship with this world and all that lives in it.

Friends, this is great news: God comes into the world with relentless, decisive, transformative grace. She walks on roads paved by our hard honesty and our deep hopes; she chooses the particular life of Jesus of Nazareth to display her grace most fully; and she pours out her presence on us, dwelling in us through the Holy Spirit.

So hear this great Good News: Jesus is coming into the world. Jesus is coming 2,000 years ago, coming on Christmas, and coming today. The Christ, God’s chosen, God’s anointed, is in the world – among us and within us – and God’s power is with us to rebuild life again. Thanks be to God!

Amen.

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