The Beginning of the Good News
Gospel Reading: Mark 1:1–8
For Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011 Year B—Advent 2
I love that Mark’s gospel starts by saying: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, son of God.”
Look, Ma, no Verb!
Grammar geeks might notice that there is no verb in that sentence. It’s more like it’s the title of the book: The Beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, Son of God. If it were titled just The Good News about Jesus Christ, Son of God then the book might be read as the beginning, middle, and end of the good news. If it had been titled The Beginning of the Good Short Story of Jesus Christ, Son of God then it would not be news. What makes it news is that it is something new that is external to us that we have to be told. The idea that it’s also the beginning suggests much more good stuff to come from this Jesus Christ, Son of God.
Raise Your Mug and Say “Yea!”
The term gospel was the term for the news flash that an announcer proclaimed about a victory that the empire or the king had won. It was a pronouncement of Good News. Something big had happened that had changed everything and this sort of announcement was one that elicited a response.
It’s sort of like if the owner of a crowded bar yells, “Drinks are on the house!” Everyone raises their mugs and says, “Yea!” So here, Mark’s account of the Gospel greets us with surprising gusto as we settle into the second week of Advent—the second week of waiting on the coming of God.
Everything’s About to Change
When Mark announces the title of his great work, The Beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, Son of God, one might think the announcement to follow would be full of power and might like news of conquering empire. But instead, enter John the Baptist with his camel’s hair and rope ensemble, looking as though he might possibly be on the corner of Main Street and Broadway holding a cardboard sign with “Will Preach for Wild Locust and Honey” scratched on it. The pronouncement of victory is of a kingdom, but, as the disturbing sight of its harbinger would suggest, it’s the Kingdom of God. And everything is about to change.
Or is it?
Unlike those first hearers we might not be expecting some victory report from the imperial front. Perhaps we’re not really expecting much at all. We’ve heard the story… Mary and Joseph…baby in a manger…little drummer boy… blah, blah, blah.
Maybe we expect only what we’ve heard before as we sit in Advent waiting for God to show up. But the thing is, if we have heard it before it is not news, its memory… it’s an internal word. We can mouth the words as they come out of John the Baptist’s mouth ad nauseam. And tragically, too often do. But that’s not the beginning of any news, let alone good news.
The Hardest Question
So…is it actually possible amidst our abject familiarity with the Christmas story to again hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ Son of God as Good and as News and as that which only just Began with the birth of Jesus and is yet to end?
Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber is the founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. She is the author of Salvation on the Small Screen? 24 Hours of Christian Television (Seabury, 2008) and blogs at www.sarcasticlutheran.com and Jim Wallis’ www.GodsPolitics.com. Nobody really believes she’s an ordained pastor in the ELCA. Maybe it’s the sleeve tattoos or the fact that she swears like a truck driver. Either way…she’s fine with it. Nadia lives in Denver with her family of four.