A Reflection on Mark 1:1-8 N.A.B.
In ancient times when kings toured their kingdoms messengers were usually sent ahead to herald the king’s coming to his subjects. Local communities, that wanted to stay in the good grace of the king, rushed to repair any rough roads so as to help ensure the king’s travel comfort. Similarly God sent messengers ahead to proclaim the coming of his Son.
The book of Isaiah heralded the coming of the Lord in chapter 40, which was written just before the end of the Babylonian exile in 587 B.C.:
3 A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway
for our God!
4 Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
The rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
-Isaiah 40:3-4 N.A.B.
The coming of the Lord was likewise announced in the Book of Malachi, which was written around 455 B.C.:
1 Lo, I am sending my messenger
to prepare the way before me;
And suddenly there will come to the temple
the LORD whom you seek,
And the messenger of the covenant whom you
Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.
- Malachi 3:1 N.A.B.
Next, John the Baptist was hand-picked by God to proclaim the coming of his Son. John began to echo the ancient prophecies of Isaiah and Malachi concerning the coming of the Lord somewhere around 28 or 29 A.D. In a manner of speaking, by proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins and conversion, John became God’s spiritual road grader, smoothing out the way for the coming of the King of the Universe:
1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ (the Son of God).
2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.
3 A voice of one crying out in the desert:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.’”
4 John (the) Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
5 People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.
6 John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey.
7 And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
8 I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the holy Spirit.”
- Mark 1:1-8 N.A.B.
As baptized Christians we too are messengers, chosen by God, to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord, chosen to be his spiritual road graders. One of the ways that we can fulfill our prophetic duty is to herald the coming of the Lord by keeping Christ in Christmas.
At stake during the Christmas season is the question of assimilation: to what extent will Christians conform to the non-Christian culture for the sake of economic gain or social acceptance. How many of us are willing to accept non-Christian beliefs as normative, failing to recognize that these values will not stand up to the scrutiny of God?
In the Old Testament, Joshua had a firm answer concerning assimilation by alien cultures:
15 If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
16 But the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD for the service of other gods.
- Joshua 24:15-16 N.A.B.
As for me and my family, we will keep Christ in Christmas!