Gospel: Mark 1:1-8 tells of the coming of John the Baptist to fulfill the prophecy of Malachi 3.1 that God would send a messenger before the face of the Lord to prepare the way before YHWH (Isa 41.3). John was a cousin of Jesus since Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth, John’s mother, were relatives. John’s father, Zacharias, was a priest who served in the Temple. Advent refers to the coming of the Lord in the birth of the infant Jesus. This season is a penitential season for the preparation of our hearts for the coming of the Lord, the Son of God, incarnated as the fully human baby Jesus. Jesus makes the Father known to us as the Holy Spirit makes the Son known to us.

John, the Baptist, may have been an Essene, a religious party of Israel that had separated itself from the Temple because it considered the Temple to be corrupt. John may have been connected with Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were written. YHWH had planned the coming of John to precede the coming of the Lord Jesus from before the foundation of the world. Timothy Keller in the King’s Cross says that before creation, God existed as the Trinity, Father, Son (the Word), and Holy Spirit, engaged in an eternal dance of love, each circling around the others. Each put the others at the center of their circle of love. The fact that God is three-fold enables each to love the others before the creation, before there was anything else. God could not have been love had God been unitary since love requires an object. After the creation and the fall of mankind, God made a covenant with Abram in Gen 12:1-3ff. to make him a great nation in whom all the families of the earth would be blessed. This was the beginning of God’s plan to restore sinful mankind. The Old Testament is the story of Abram’s (or as he came to be called, Abraham’s) family, Israel, and God’s faithfulness to His covenant promise (described in Scripture as God’s ‘righteousness’) even though Israel turned away from God to worship idols. Israel is one major strand of the biblical narrative. Another is the coming of Jesus of Nazareth as the incarnation of the second Person of the Trinity as a fully-human (as well as fully-divine) being and the climax of Israel’s history. A third strand of the narrative is God’s plan through Jesus to inaugurate His kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven’” where God will be King to dwell with and rule over His people. This story unfolds in the Gospels as we shall see. A fourth strand of the narrative in the Bible is the conflict between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world ruled over by the Caesars, Herods, and Caiaphas’s of the world behind whom towers the evil power of the satan. These four strands become distorted and misunderstood and even inaudible as they are read and re-read down through the ages as described in N.T. Wright’s How God Became King. One common misinterpretation is that those who are rescued from this world by the Savior will live eternally as disembodied spirits in “heaven”, but the Bible promises eternal life in resurrected bodies in a renewed earth (Rm 8:18-23) as heaven comes down to earth as described in Rev 21,22. All that people accomplish in this life as followers of Jesus helping to establish the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven will not be in vain (1 Cor 15.58). It is this narrative that the Advent Season unfolds. The Gospels are stories of Jesus who is God returning to His people after their long exile and how He becomes King and launches His kingdom,  the subject of N.T. Wright’s book The Day the Revolution Began. It is the greatest story in the world.

Memory Verse: Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God (Mk 1:14).