Merry Christmas Eve, and I apologize for showing up here and reminding us that as soon as we get done with Silent Night, we get to do it again on Sunday. Merry Christmas, preachers!
The Narrative Lectionary moves to the Gospel of Mark with the beginning of the Good News, which begins with John the baptizer, appearing in the wilderness. Careful listeners will have heard us preach during Advent about preparing the way in the wilderness, and about the birth of John, who went to the wilderness at the end of the Dec 22 story about Zechariah.
How do you preach John the Baptist’s story right after Christmas differently than you might right before it?
I’ve heard some people are re-arranging the beginning of Mark for preaching so the baptism of Jesus can happen the week we liturgically mark the baptism of Jesus in January. If you’re re-arranging, how are you doing it?
Mark is a gospel of immediacy (a word that is used as a drumbeat throughout the gospel–immediately!). He doesn’t have time for flowery language and long discourses about anything. He has an important story to tell and wastes no time getting to it.
It’s also a circular story. At the end of the gospel, at the empty tomb, the angel will tell the women:
‘But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’
And that sends you back to the beginning, where Jesus meets John the Baptist in Galilee. We will see Jesus in his baptism, in his teachings, in his healings, and in his struggle for justice that leads to the cross. Just as he told us.
The Beginning of the Good News may also be a good topic for the ending of one calendar year and the beginning of a new year (and decade). What do we want to begin in this new year and leave behind in the old one?
Jesus’ life didn’t begin the day he was baptized in the Jordan, but that’s where Mark begins his story, without shepherds, magi, or stars in the sky. If you were to tell your story, is there a moment when it “begins”?
I’m working on a memoir right now, and while my life began in a hospital on Nov 12, 1968, my story of my life that I am telling may begin on the day I knock on my birth mother’s door to meet her for the first time in 2017.
The end of this passage has the disciples fishing for people, which always makes me think of my favorite Sesame Street segment.
Some congregations use the Sunday after Christmas to sing all the Christmas carols, and maybe to give the preacher a break. If you have a lessons and carols service, please share.
Blessings on you at the end of this year and the beginning of a new one. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end, as the prophets Semisonic once said.
Marci Glass is the pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church and lives with her husband and sons in Boise, Idaho. She is a graduate of Trinity University and Columbia Theological Seminary. She serves on the boards of the Clergy Advocacy Board of Planned Parenthood, Covenant Network of Presbyterians, and the Mission Agency of the Presbyterian Church USA. Marci blogs at Glass Overflowing and is among the contributors to the RevGals book, There’s a Woman in the Pulpit (SkyLight Paths).
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