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Holy Anticipation

  • Posted on Dec 6, 2011

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 a 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.'” Mark 1:1-3

So begins the Gospel of Mark. No nativity narratives. No prologue about the Word made flesh that comes to dwell among us. The Gospel of Mark, which is our Gospel for most of this lectionary Year B, is short and sweet. Just the facts. In our New Testament class, we are using Mark Allan Powell’s textbook on the New Testament. Dr. Powell suggests reading the first chapters of each Gospel as a kind of overture. In a musical, the overture gives you a little bit of each of the main songs and musical themes. So what might be Mark’s Gospel trying to tell us in the first chapter? There is no nativity story. The good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begins with the words of the prophet Isaiah talking about a holy messenger. Then John the Baptizer appears out of the wilderness and baptizes Jesus. Jesus is immediately driven into the wilderness to be temped by Satan and then he is off and running in his Galilean ministry—with almost nary a breath. Healing the sick, driving out demons, calling disciples, praying in a deserted place, then off again to heal and teach. In Mark, Jesus has very little of what we call “down time.” What kind of model might that be for us in our ministry? However, the first chapter of Mark does begin with the words of the prophet Isaiah which speak of preparation and beginning.

Advent is the time of the church year that we set aside to prepare for the birth of Christ once more in our lives. It is a time of preparing, of anticipating. An overture does much the same thing. At the theatre, when the lights go down and we settle in our seats, the excitement truly builds with the orchestra’s first notes of the overture. As we listen to the orchestra, if we know the show, we start to live into the story all over again—the tragedy, the humor, the redemption. But there is that moment before the music starts—when the theatre is quiet and still. A time of great anticipation.

That is what the season of Advent should bring forth in our souls. Anticipation. A kind of holy anticipation. Waiting for the birth of something new in our lives—in Advent, we may get just a hint of the tune of the new adventure ahead, but if we quiet ourselves, we can begin to see a path being prepared. A path which is straight and true and allows us to fully live into a new life in Christ.

In this year’s issue of Weavings, a poem was on the back cover which struck me. The poem describes Holy Anticipation as “that breathtaking space in between what has been, what is, and what is to come.” In the holy anticipation of Advent, we are called to settle into our seats before the show and listen for the first notes of the new life to come. 

What notes of a new tune are you hearing in your life in the overture of Advent? The tune may not be complete—but what is coming into your vision and hearing and heart that makes you think a new life in Christ is being born in you this year?