In the season of Advent, we begin to tell the story of salvation again, but anew. This week we pray that God will “stir up our hearts” (Prayer of the Week). God does this by the way and the word of the prophets. The Gospel of Mark drops us directly into this story, as it were – ‘in the middle of things.’
So, it is with the liturgy of our daily lives. John the Baptist (in the Gospel), enters in the midst of the hustle and bustle of our culture’s holiday season. His call, like those of all the OT prophets of whom he is the culmination, is the call to repentance, of turning away from all the ways of life that would lose us in ourselves and then turning toward the One who comes after him, who is “not slow to fulfil his promise…but is patient” (2 Peter 3:9).
Having last Sunday announced that the King is coming, the second and third Sundays of Advent continue with John the Baptist, who is himself an end time figure. As he calls people to repentance John points them to God’s final judgement when the winnowing fork of the Messiah clears the threshing floor to gather the wheat into his barns but to clear the chaff away to burnt with unquenchable fire (Luke 3:17). The need for repentance, because the end is near is a big theme in Advent. As John prepared for the coming of the Messiah by calling the people of Israel to repentance, so Advent prepares us through repentance for our celebration of the Childs birth in Bethlehem.