It’s almost Christmas; in fact, you may be lighting this last candle on Christmas Eve. John the Baptist is an odd addition to the faces at the manger! But before we turn to angels and shepherds and magi, Mark’s Gospel holds before us the good news that will continue to break: “Repentance” means “to turn around.” The Common English Bible translates the Greek as “changing … hearts and lives.” That’s the turnaround in our wilderness, toward “God with us.”
Lighting the candles
Light the first, second, and third candles
on the Advent wreath;
light the fourth candle (purple) for the coming of Immanuel,
"... the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.' "
Mark 1: 3
Reflecting on the text
The herald cries out in the wilderness; the Common English Bible translates "cries out" as "shouts." And the wilderness shouts out its joy when the Messiah comes; it rejoices and blossoms like the desert rose. The symbol of the rose recalls the prophetic vision of Isaiah 35. Growth, joy, life - the birth of the Messiah transforms all creation. In art, literature, and poetry over the centuries, Jesus Christ himself was symbolized by a rose. The custom of using the rose as an Advent symbol can be traced back to the 13th century. It was Martin Luther's favorite symbol of the Christian faith. It blooms among us as a sign of hope and joy at the center of our Chancel cross.