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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, December 7, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Mark 1:1–8

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

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

   “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way;
    the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
    ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight,’”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And 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. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He 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. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (NRSV)

Good news. I stopped in my tracks at the first sentence of our reading for today: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” We’re inundated with all kinds of news these days. Bad news, fake news, tough news, a 24-hour news cycle that never stops—but amid all the noisy news, good news feels hard to come by. And when it does, it’s easy to feel so jaded and overwhelmed that we can hardly believe it.

This good news also came from an unlikely messenger. The wild man “crying out” in the desert didn’t exactly seem like the most trustworthy source by standard expectations. Some guy clothed in camel’s hair who subsists on insects? That doesn’t sound like someone who would pass muster from a professional fact checker. 

Yet his message does. Mark’s Gospel authenticates it from the outset, explaining how John’s appearance on the scene fulfills Isaiah’s earlier prophecy about the coming of God. John’s voice rings clear and true, proclaiming the news of who is to come, rather than seizing power or glory for himself from the throngs of people flocking to him for baptism and forgiveness. John calls them to await the inner spiritual transformation that could only come from the One who would follow. Real change that couldn’t be faked.

That’s good news worth believing, indeed.

God, keep my eyes and ears open for the good news of your transforming presence in our world. Help me to believe it when I see it and to allow your spirit to continue working in me. Work in us as we wait for whatever is to come, and prepare your way in us and through us. Thank you for the good you continue to work, even now. Amen.

Written by Sarah van der Ploeg, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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