Advent Devotions from Good Shepherd (Mark 1:1-8)

St__John_the_Baptist__1John the Baptist – Preparing the Heart (Josh Wullenweber)

Mark 1:1-8:

1The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
   who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
   “Prepare the way of the Lord,
   make his paths straight” ’,
4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’

John the Baptist is a prophet who is mentioned in every religious book in the Abrahamic lineage. In the Qur’an he is mentioned as having “wisdom even as a youth, and pity for all creatures as from Us, and purity: he was devout” (Qur’an Surah 19:12-15).   The Jewish Book of Antiquities refers to John as “a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing with water would be acceptable to Him” (book 18, ch.5).

We learn of John’s birth through the Book of Luke and the divine events that took place with his parents Zechariah and Elizabeth.  An angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah stating, “your wife Elizabeth (who was barren) will bear you a son and you will name him John” (Luke 1:13).  The Angel goes on to proclaim, “He will turn many the people of Israel to the Lord their God” (Luke 1:16).

Throughout the synoptic gospels we read of this great prophet one who baptizes and turns many from sin, one that sounds much like the savior that the people of Israel have been waiting for.  John is certain though to not confuse any of his followers, in Matthew we read “I baptize you with water for repentance but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals, He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 3:11).

Just as John prepared the people of Israel for the coming of the Messiah let us also prepare our hearts and minds for the celebration of Christ’s birth in this Advent season.  Let us take time each day to set aside the distractions of the Christmas season; the shopping, gift wrapping and food preparation can wait.  Let us focus and reflect on the true reason for this joyous time of year, the birth of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

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