A Moment before the Second Sunday in Advent

Last week's Old Testament reading was all about hitting bottom and asking for help.  The Gospel that it was paired with said that help was actually coming.  This Sunday’s Old Testament reading (Isaiah) is the answer to the unspoken question (“When?”) with what you hope you’ll hear after you ask "when" - It starts now. 

Isaiah tells us the message that signals the start of everything - “Prepare the way of the Lord!” - and how to spot the messenger, calling him “a voice crying out in the desert.”  This Sunday’s Gospel (Mark) echoes Isaiah, to let us know that this is Isaiah’s messenger. 

The messenger turns out to be the most unusual character in the New Testament, a guy who’s pretty rough, even by first century standards.  He’s hairy, he’s standing in a river, he smells like wet camel, he eats bugs, and he’s got a message.  And people are listening. 

John is preaching a hard message – the need to acknowledge our sins and to repent – and people are responding by being baptized for the forgiveness of sins.  And as important as the message and the response are, John is clear that it’s just the beginning, the preparation for the help that is coming.