“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
As if nobody has told this story before, Mark says, “I have wonderful news to tell you. Listen, I am going to tell the good news.” “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). And now the God is about to create the new heaven and the new earth.” “It is the beginning of a new age, a new creation. It is the beginning of the final phase of God’s making relationship to the world he made and to human beings he made in his image.” Then, what is the good news? Mark says, it is that Jesus is the Christ who is the long-waited Messiah, who is also the Son of God in a unique way, as we know, in his life, death, and resurrection.
Last three days, Vancouver was in the dense and heavy fog. It was Vancouver fog like London fog. At times, the deep sound of the foghorn was heard from the sea. I really love the sound. It has always made me awake to something, and think something over there beyond myself. The foghorn sound echoed across the English Bay and the False Creek, and also echoed through me, my ears and my heart. For me, when I was reading, praying, and writing the sermon for today, the foghorn seemed like the voice coming from the wilderness that Mark’s Gospel says, “I am coming to you in the fog. Be still. Be alert. Be awake. I am coming to you. I am here, you there, and I now is coming there to you. Where are you? I am passing by.” “Did you hear me?” “Are you there?” “Go out to the wilderness, to the sea, to prepare the way through which I am coming to you, and you are coming to me.” “Did you hear me?” “Where are you?” “Are you waiting for me?” “I am waiting for you, and coming to you.” Today, like the foghorn, the voice of one crying out in the wilderness is heard from the wilderness. “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Something new and unexpected is going to happen here and now to you.” “Did you hear me?” “Are you there?”
We are walking though the Advent season, waiting for the coming of the Lord. We expect Advent of fullness of joy, peace, and love. But we know we are also walking through the world of the darkness. Advent does not mean that we have to ignore our darkness, our wilderness, and to paint it with white, green, or red of joy at least during this season. Instead, the Lord is calling us to the wilderness to face the darkness. He is calling us to come to the wilderness to meet him, and listen to his voice. Because, it is the wilderness in which the good news begins. It looks a wrong place for us to meet the one who we are waiting for. But, the good news begins at the wilderness. God’s word did come to John in the wilderness. And all the people from the whole Judea and Jerusalem were going out to the wilderness to hear the voice. They went out to the wilderness, and then they could hear the voice. What is the wilderness. Yes, we are all children of light and children of the day. Yes, we belong to the day, not to the darkness. Yes, we are not in the darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11). However, we, from time to time, are in distress alone or together. We feel …. as if we are left behind alone in the darkness with no exit, with no light, as if we are walking though the darkest valley, or the wilderness, without food and water and shelter, and without God. The wilderness is a place of quietness, stillness, and also a place of suffering, agony and pain. And, the wilderness is a deserted place, in which we come to encounter ourselves hidden from us and others. And in which we can meet not only the John the baptizer with shabby clothes but also lots of John having the faces of the poor, the hungry, the sick, the alien, the suffered, the deported, that sometimes our society has regarded invisible. The wilderness becomes the place in which we can hear the voice, and experience God’s love, mercy, and justice, and God’s patience. The voice from the wilderness, from our distress, from our helplessness, from our hopelessness, is saying, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Turn away from your sins, your distress, your darkness, your apathy, because I am coming, the Kingdom of heaven is near.” Then, the wilderness becomes the beginning of a new Exodus, and the beginning of the good news, and the new place where the people see that God has done and will do wonders and mighty acts for them.
“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
As we know, following this line, throughout his Gospel, Mark tells us the life, death, and resurrection of the Christ. However, he does not tell about the end of the good news, the final scene of the story. Because the community of the Christ, the people having the good news of Christ, have to live the hope in the coming of the Lord. The good news is not merely a news or an event that happened in the past, and remained only in someone’s memory. There was the beginning of the good news, but not the end. “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The Gospel of Mark beginning with the saying, however, does not end with the cross and resurrection of him. We know the Cross is not the end of the story. We know the tomb in Easter morning is not the end of the story. The whole of Mark’s story is only a beginning. The story of a new creation and a new beginning, and the final phase of God’s work continue in us, in our lives, in our times and days. Saying the resurrection of Jesus in the shorter ending, Mark closes his gospel, saying, “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (16:8). Mark leaves his gospel open-ended, as if it will not finish forever and it is ongoing drama, and also he does not end the story as if he has no authority and knowledge that he closes the book. Only the good news itself knows its end and closes it. Mark’s Gospel, it invites its readers there and then, and us here and now, to enter into and partake the roles of the story of the good news of Jesus Christ. At last, the fog cleared up, and we were given a wonderful view of the distant mountains covered with the snow. The sea was shone in the sun. The fog was gone. This morning of the second Sunday of Advent, Mark calls us to reduce the speed of our lives, and pause to think ‘where we are’, ‘where I am’, ‘where we are going’, ‘who we are waiting for’, and to open our hearts and minds and thoughts to hear the voice from the wilderness.
We are waiting for the Lord who is love and mercy. Apostle Peter says, “The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief” (2 Peter 3:8-9). Yes, the day of the Lord is coming in the fog, and the fog, all of sudden, will be cleared up with the sun. And then, the ship, the harbor, and the Lord will be showed up before our eyes. So, Peter tells us, “regarding our Lord’s patience as the love, mercy, and opportunity he is giving us to be saved, let us wait for the coming of the day of the Lord, do our best to be pure and faultless in God’s sight and to be at peace with him (2 Peter 3:14-15).” Mark’s gospel is not a historical document that describes and reports events that happened and finished in the past. The book has begun. But, the book has not closed yet. The good news that has begun will continue. It not only ‘was’ a good news, but also ‘is’ a good news. Jesus, the good news, was contemporary and alive not only with them “there and then” but also with us “here and now.” The good news begins at the wilderness. Let us go out to the wilderness, hear the voice echoed through our helplessness, through our helpless brothers and sisters.
The Lord is coming through our helplessness in our hope in him.