Mark 1:1-8, NIRV
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
1This is the beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. 2 Long ago Isaiah the prophet wrote,
“I will send my messenger ahead of you.
He will prepare your way.” (Malachi 3:1)
3 “A messenger is calling out in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord.
Make straight paths for him.’ ” (Isaiah 40:3)
4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the desert. He preached that people should be baptized and turn away from their sins. Then God would forgive them. 5 All the people from the countryside of Judea went out to him. All the people from Jerusalem went too. When they admitted they had sinned, John baptized them in the Jordan River. 6John wore clothes made out of camel’s hair. He had a leather belt around his waist. And he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 Here is what John was preaching. “After me, there is someone coming who is more powerful than I am. I’m not good enough to bend down and untie his sandals. 8 I baptize you with water. But he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
- Strand of larger white twinkling lights
- Either a cardboard cutout of a dove [about the size of a 3 X 5 index card] or white feathers.
We are another week closer to the big day! Are you even more excited than you were last week? How did you do while waiting this past week? (Allow children to respond.) Today is the second Sunday of Advent. Remind me again what Advent means? (Allow children to respond.) That’s right, Advent is a time for preparation and waiting.
I know that you have heard the Christmas story. Perhaps you have a nativity set in your home that displays those around the stable in Bethlehem. The story of Christmas is told several times, each a little differently, in our Bible. The Gospel of Matthew, for example, tells about wise men from far away who followed a star to the place where Jesus was born. The Gospel of Luke tells about angels who spread the good news of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, who then journey to the baby in the manger. For most of us, when we think of the Christmas story, we will certainly think of shepherds and wise men.
But Christmas isn’t really about wise men or shepherds. Christmas is about the good news of God’s Son, Jesus, who has come to be with us. The Gospel of Mark doesn’t tell us anything about Jesus’ birth. Mark begins with the baptism of Jesus, after Jesus was already grown. There is no mention of wise men. There are no shepherds who watched their flock by night. Let me read the first verse of Mark’s Gospel. “This is the beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.” Mark then immediately tells of Jesus’ baptism. Even in this one statement, Mark also brings the good news of Christmas. He tells us that Jesus, God’s beloved Son, is here to save us.
Mark begins the story of Jesus’ life with his baptism. In the United Methodist Church, we begin the story of our lives as followers of Christ with baptism too. Some people are baptized as infants, while others are youth or adults. Either way, baptism is only the beginning for us. Once we are baptized, we too can carry the good news of Jesus into the world.
As we continue to prepare for Christmas Day, throughout this Advent Season, I have more items to add to the tree. Today I wonder if you can help me decorate this tree. (Allow children to respond.)
Today, I have a strand of larger twinkling lights. Notice that these lights are brighter and larger than the lights that we put on last week. The reason? We are getting closer and closer to Christmas day. (Place the strand on the tree. Make sure the lights come on and can be plugged into an outlet near the tree.) I also have (either, your choice) a white cardboard dove (or white feather) for each of you to help hang on our tree. I wonder why I would have an ornament in the shape of a dove. (Allow children to answer). That is right, from our Bible passage found in Mark’s Gospel and Jesus’ baptism, a dove came down from heaven and the voice of God was heard. These dove ornaments (or feathers) will remind us of our baptism as the beginning of our opportunity to carry the good news to the world. We can make this Christmas more meaningful in our lives through our willingness to be peace-loving members of this church and this world!
While we decorate, remember our Advent playlist. This playlist will help us enjoy some of the season’s beautiful music and help us remember the true meaning of Christmas. As we decorate the tree each week, listen to the words in the songs selected. Play them each week with your family as you spend time together preparing for Christmas and remembering the true meaning of Christmas. This week’s song is two songs in one. The first part of the song, sung by Bing Crosby, is one that you may be familiar with. The second voice in the song is a singer named David Bowie, and it’s his part of the song that I want you to listen closely to.
(As you play the song, make sure you let it play long enough for children to hear Bowie’s lyrics about peace.) Play the YouTube video of the song at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCpXMy5GalI.
(Have children help hang the dove ornaments or feathers on the tree, while the playlist song plays.)
Did you hear the second voice in the song? What was he singing about? What word did you hear? (Allow children to respond.) That’s right! The song was about peace on earth. The first part of the song was “Little Drummer Boy,” a song that we hear most likely every Christmas season. But, just as Mark teaches us the true meaning of Christmas without shepherds, drummer boys, or a manger, this song asks us if we can live a life of peace. Can we live in peace? Peace on earth, can it be?
As we pray, let’s look at our tree. Look at the soft lights, the larger twinkling lights, and the white doves. I wonder what brings you peace this Christmas. Where will you find peace on earth? And can you make peace happen on earth? Can it be? Let’s pray.
God of peace, you have made peace in our lives through the gift of your son. You have blessed the peacemakers and the peacebuilders. Allow your Holy Spirit, who was present at Jesus’ baptism in the form of a dove, to work peace into our hearts and lives. Work peace into our lives, so that the world will see the love of Christ Jesus through our actions, words, and the way we treat others. As the singer asks, “Peace on earth, can it be?” we say, “yes!” With your help, we can offer peace to everyone on earth. Amen.