Sunday, December 6, 2020

The Messenger & the Messiah in the Wilderness

Today we’re looking at the gospel of Mark. Now, when you open to page one of the gospel of Mark, you may notice, the entire birth narrative of Jesus goes completely unmentioned. We start off immediately with John the Baptist in the wilderness declaring the coming of the messiah. No stable, no camels, no wise men, and no shepherds. But, we see a great deal of advent, of the idea of “the coming.” That’s what advent means, the coming.

This is the time of year when we remind ourselves just what history is all about. We remind ourselves what really matters in life. And its essential that we do this every Christmas season. Because it’s amazing just how off track we can get.

It seems like this whole world attempts to drive our attention off of Christ and onto ourselves. Even history itself, attempts to drive our attention away from Christ. Historians no longer refer to BC and AD. They refer to BCE, and CE. AD is an abbreviation for “the year of our Lord.” While CE is simply “ common era.”

In our world we find ourselves increasingly indoctrinated into worldviews contrary to the Christian worldview. We hear about evolution, how society is always evolving and supposedly getting better and better over time. Of course the facts don’t tend to back that up. We’re constantly told everything is about me, me, me right? We’re even told that holidays like Christmas and Easter are really all about you. It’s about presents and Santa, and Easter bunny and candy, and we completely lose the focus on salvation, God, and Jesus Christ.

So it’s quite fitting that we remind ourselves persistently during this Christmas season, and every Christmas season, what it’s really all about, it’s all about Jesus.

Mark 1:1-4 says, "The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

Everything had to be ready for the coming of Jesus. And so there was a great prophet who was born, who would point everyone toward Jesus, and help prepare people for when Jesus would come. This was John the Baptist, a wild man on the outskirts of society, living in the wilderness, calling lost people to prepare themselves for the coming of the messiah. He pointed the huddled and hurting masses to one thing: hope.

One day hope was born into world. And hope had a name, it was Yeshua. Jesus Christ as we call him in English. The thing about hope is, it’s a lot like light in darkness. If I have a candle burning in a bright room with all the lights on, the candle doesn’t seem as bright and beautiful. But if I’m in a dark room at night, and I light a candle, the candle takes my full attention.

Much is the same with the coming of Jesus into the world. The Pharisees and Saducees had a hard time seeing the light of Jesus. They walked in their own artificial light, of good works, and self righteousness. But Jesus appeared so brightly to people who were lost in the darkness, like tax collectors, prostitutes, the sick, the broken, and the lonely.

And as much as that was insanely true two thousand years ago when Jesus came, amazingly, it’s just as true today. It draws me back to my own life before I knew Jesus. I lived in the darkest, most miserable empty life. So when Jesus appeared in my life, it was like the brightest light imaginable. And it shocked my world completely. Some had more subtle salvation experiences, mine was profound. I had become darkness, and the Lord Jesus lit a light in me. It’s so strong, and intense, and Jesus still does that today for people who are miserable, broken, and lost. He gives us hope, he lights a candle in our darkness, and changes it from night to day.

My entire life ended that day, and a new life began. That is what Jesus’ coming is all about. It’s about a hope that appears in our wilderness, that begins drawing us to a mysterious messiah. And it’s outside the bright lights of society. It’s outside the television commercials, the black Friday sales, the busy traffic, the endless work hours, the YouTube videos, the energy drinks, the shopping sprees, and the beau monde holiday parties.

John the Baptist, in the wilderness. A weirdo. That guy everyone made fun of in high school. The band of odd people who just don’t fit in anywhere. The people that have very few friends. Gathered in the wilderness. And then, Jesus appears. The coming. The appearing of the one. The one who changes darkness to light in us.

My savior.

Slow down, and pay attention.

Stop. Right now. Slow down those anxious thoughts. Focus your mind right now. Slow down, focus your mind on Jesus, beautiful Jesus. Your savior. The lover of your soul. The one who has made you new. Remember his coming.

Let’s prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus. Indeed he has already come. He’s already been born. But this is our time to celebrate that. This is our time to prepare ourselves once again for the next phase of what Christ is doing in our lives. He is always doing something in our lives, teaching us, molding us, blessing us, loving us, and guiding us through trials.

So that’s my first word to you today, slow down, and focus your attention on Jesus. Celebrate this time, over advent, as a time to draw yourself closer to the reality of the birth of Jesus. We can often view it as some far away historical fact or as a story that seems nice, but change your perspective, view it now as something very real that transformed your own life. Because the truth is, it’s not just historical, it’s personal to you and me.

Secondly, my challenge to you today, is for you to realize that though John the Baptist pointed ancient Israel to Jesus, when Jesus came, now, we are also awaiting the time when jesus will come a second time, to set up his kingdom on Earth.

So in a very real way, you and I are John the Baptists, preparing the way for the second coming of Jesus into the world.

So now, you’re John the Baptist, out in the wilderness, of Owosso, and your mission now should be to point people to their savior Jesus Christ. Repent, and believe in Jesus! Just as John the Baptist, prepared the way, so you must prepare the way, for those around us who still need Jesus.

John the Baptist, this wild-man, out in the wilderness, was paving the road ahead of Jesus. 

And it says in Mark 1:5-8: “The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with[e] water, but he will baptize you with[f] the Holy Spirit.”

As we enjoy this advent season, this Christmas season, remember what it’s all about: It’s all about Jesus. We have life. We’re here today, because of a dark night in AD 0 when the son of God was born to a young woman named Mary, probably about 12 or 13 years old. Poor, no rooms available in town, Mary and Joseph, in a stable, gave birth to the king of Kings. In the wilderness. Rejected by society. Seen as unimportant by society, just as many view Jesus as irrelevant to their lives today, in the same way, there was no room for the birth of Jesus in the little town of Bethlehem.

Is there room in your busy life for Jesus? Or do you have too much to do? Got too many TV shows you need to watch? Too many parties to attend? Too many family get togethers to give Jesus any time?

I’ve got room for Jesus this Christmas, at the end of 2020. It’s been a rough year. Let’s make this Christmas about Jesus. Let’s focus on Him today.

So in conclusion today, let me ask you this question: Are you prepared for Jesus coming this Christmas? Are you ready?

Those going out to John the Baptist in the wilderness, they confessed their wrongdoings. They confessed their sins. And they were baptized to declare a new way in their lives.

Today, I’d like to invite you to pray, repent, and get ready. Is there anything you need to repent of? Do you want to recommit yourself to Christ? Maybe you want to come to declare to Jesus that this Christmas it’s going to be all about him? Please take some time now to think, and pray, and make sure this Christmas season is all about Jesus in your household.