Scripture for the second Sunday in the season of Advent:
Isaiah 40:1–11; Psalm 85:8–13; 2 Peter 3:8–15a; Mark 1:1–8
We come to the second Sunday of Advent, our season of anticipation and preparation; and we come to the second Sunday of a new church year.
This brings us to Mark’s gospel in our reading cycle. Mark’s gospel originated in oral tradition, and his gospel story-telling begins abruptly: no angels, shepherds, magi, stable, nor even any parents. Mark goes straight to the prophetic voice of John the Baptist, preparing the way for one who will bring abundant, nourished life to those who recognise its source. John inherits the prophetic responsibility of exposing current actions and warning of the consequences of unchanged behaviour, but tempered with the spirit of Isaiah’s anticipation of comfort and tenderness from God, something to be found through Jesus, the Christ.
Mark’s gospel is special in another way: when we get to the end, the narrative is somehow unfinished; the disciples are sent back from the empty tomb to Galilee, where it all began, and we, the readers, are sent back to go over it again, too – this time with an understanding of where the story leads, and more likely to make sense of it.
As we journey through the gospel, we remember, and we re-imagine and add a layer of understanding and wisdom, imbedding the gospel story into our stories, and vice versa. This is, in fact, something that we inherit from Jewish tradition. The idea of working cyclically through scripture forms a regular part of Jewish worship.
In this part of the cycle, Advent, we are invited to remember the empty tomb as we embark upon our exploration of the story of Christ’s coming among, in and through us. We have an opportunity to add fresh layers of understanding to the meaning of incarnation for each of us, and, as a Professor of the Old Testament said, “not preparing our homes for Christmas, but preparing ourselves to be at home with God.”