Christ Enters My World: The Gospel of Mark

December 22, 2013

I continue to push back against the tide of other topics and preoccupations this week, to ponder in a new way the meaning of Christmas. If Christ came into the world, is it not reasonable to appreciate that he came into my world (and our world) as well? If he did that, his incarnation surely has an impact on the conduct of my life.

Today we turn the page to the gospel of Mark, which has no birth narrative. The story of Jesus’ life starts thirty years later, with the prophetic announcement of his cousin John: “Prepare the way of the Lord” (1:3). We have no Bethlehem scene, no frustrating search for a room, no angels or shepherds on a magical night. We have a scruffy wild man out by the Jordan River, a prophet of bad diet and humble demeanor who, nevertheless, brings the most important news of all:  “The one more powerful than I” is about to crash in on the scene and turn the world upside down.

Mark’s action-packed first chapter unfolds the breathless story of the Christ’s invasion into public life. The Father’s affirmation at Jesus’ baptism prepares him for the desert test, after which Jesus enters into the lives of the sick, possessed, busy, feverish, and unclean citizens of Galilee. He attaches his actions to his teaching, and vise versa, so that people can understand the Kingdom of God is being made manifest. It is nothing short of an invasion, which is certainly another way of looking at the Incarnation, even the kinder and gentler Bethlehem version. When the power of God breaks in, things happen and old realities fall!

Jesus Christ has been a palpable presence in my life since the summer of 1970, which would be forty-three years now. He hasn’t really had to come crashing in to get my attention since then, but I recall times when he was perhaps more insistent than others. But suppose you were to get the cancer diagnosis without yet knowing the power of God in your life, which is something that happens to people all the time. As that news deals its blow, the question is whether Jesus’ entry on the scene can match its force. For many, the Kingdom of God is so foreign as to be unrecognizable. Without its stabilizing power, the first feelings can be overwhelming, numbing, or frightening. I’m sure these feelings were shared by first century Galileans who knew a whole lot less than we do about medicine and cure. Many of the people who met Jesus in Galilee were trapped in chronic illness or downtrodden by hopeless circumstances. Their expectations might not have been very high for healing or a turn-around, and yet part of Christ’s “crashing” is that wonderful jolt of recognition that, really, here is somebody who can help me. 

I can attest that Jesus has been able to help me. He was there when I got the bad news. He has held me together since. He has lifted his mighty arm to protect me from much of the collateral damage possible in treatment. He has showered me with love from family and friends. There has been no trauma in this experience, because God has been steadily present, simply deflecting any sense of threat that could take away my aloha. Jesus, who has been in my life for a long time, didn’t leave me to fend for myself but stayed on duty.

So now I turn from preaching to meddling: if you missed Bethlehem and have not had a kind and gentle introduction to the Savior yet, today is the day to let him invade your reality. Why wait until there is a crisis? Why assume that “someday” this faith thing will work itself out, and you’ll just automatically believe in a good God who might help you if you ask? Now would be a very good time to meet Jesus, get familiar with his voice, let his Word inform your reality, and otherwise practice being friends with him. In Christian parlance, this is entering into the spiritual discipline of discipleship. The idea is that when the Big Challenge hits you (and there will be one), you are already strong from the inside out and are assured of God’s power working on your behalf.

The second gospel introduces us to Jesus as a proactive agent of God’s grace, willing to have his garment touched, his ankles hugged, and his schedule interrupted. What he brings to our life is action and courage against the forces that might otherwise do us in. What better response to this gracious Coming than the words of a favorite carol:

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!
O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold him, born the King of angels!
O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord!

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One Response to “Christ Enters My World: The Gospel of Mark”

  1. Jim Skidmore Says:

    Way to go Mary! If God is for us who is against us? Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

    Jim

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