Second Sunday of Advent Year B

Advent - Preparation for Discipleship

Second Sunday of Advent Year B

Isaiah 40:1-5.9-11

2 Peter 3:8-14

Mark 1:1-8

Advent is a time when we look back to the momentous events of Christ's birth and prepare to celebrate again Jesus' entrance into and acceptance of our life here on earth. It is a fascinating exercise to look at the popular image of Christmas now (Christmas present) and compare it with the story told us by Matthew and Luke (Christmas past). We also look forward to his second coming when the Kingdom, which at the time of his birth was not yet in existence, will be fulfilled (Christmas yet to come?).

Over the four Sundays of Advent the scripture readings give us an insight into Jesus' story before the start of his most public ministry. They show us the underlying meaning of Advent - Preparation for Discipleship. Interestingly, two of the evangelists, Mark and John, don't even mention Christmas. Only Matthew and Luke give us variations of the Christmas story. There is a charming account told of a budding young scripture scholar who declared that the Holy Family used the gold they got from the three wise men to buy first class tickets for their "flight" into Egypt and that Pontius was the "pilot"!

Today's Gospel from Mark jumps straight in at the deep end and introduces us to John the Baptist - the one who was to "prepare a way for the Lord". The first reading from Isaiah gives us the context used by Mark for the words spoken by John. The reading from St Peter pulls together the whole meaning of Advent by his allusion to the timeless vision of God and picks up last week's theme of "stay awake" as we "long for the Day of God to come". It's not just a rosy memory of Christmas past, it is an expectation and longing for Christmas to come.

We do not know much about the years between Jesus' birth and the events in today's Gospel from Mark. Clearly, for Jesus and his family, it was a time of waiting and preparation for the task to come - even if they did not really know what was to come (Luke 2:51 Mary stored all these things in her heart)!

Jesus, although he ministered to and loved the poor and the despised, was not himself poor. We know from Mark (6:3) that Jesus was a carpenter, the son of a carpenter. This was a valued trade in first century Palestine and it is entirely possible that Jesus used his skills to help build the Roman city of Sepphoris situated some four miles NW of Nazareth where Jesus grew up. The city was rebuilt by Herod (the son of the bad guy in the Christmas story) from about 10 CE onwards. Sepphoris is almost certainly where Jesus raised the funds he would need to begin his ministry and would have imbibed Greek and Roman culture alongside his own deep Jewish faith and expectations. Also, we know a little (Luke 4:1-13 the incident in the desert with the devil) about his prayerful preparation. This is a story of someone "preparing for discipleship".

We too are called to discipleship; to serve the Father in the Kingdom Christ began. We too are called to prepare, in whatever way is appropriate, to use our own skills in the building up of that Kingdom. We too are called to minister to the poor, the lost and those damaged by the world we now live in. So, "stay awake and prepare a way for the Lord".

"Maranatha" - Come Lord Jesus, come.

(C) Bob Birtles 2011