Today’s reading comes from the very beginning of the Gospel of Mark. ‘The beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.’ But before Jesus appears, we first meet John the Baptist. John seems a scary figure. He lived alone in the desert, he dressed in a camel skin, and he was fierce and fearless in his preaching. And yet, the people flocked to hear him. John’s message was good news for them. The ordinary people of Judaea and Jerusalem were poor and downtrodden, suffering under Roman rule and burdened with sin. John called them to repent; to turn back to God. When John baptised the people in the river Jordan, it was a sign that they were leaving behind their sins, receiving God’s mercy and beginning a new life. His message was one of change and of hope.
The people flocked to John, but he didn’t seek glory for himself. He told his disciples that someone more powerful was coming – Jesus, the Saviour, who would baptise them with the Holy Spirit. The Jewish people knew the words of the prophets, and they recognised John as the messenger sent by God to prepare the way for the Saviour, just as the prophet Isaiah had foretold. The Lord was coming with power.
In the season of Advent, we look forward to Christmas, and we prepare ourselves to welcome the Saviour. We may feel downtrodden and burdened, like John’s disciples. But with Jesus, there is always hope. We can always turn back to God, be forgiven and make a new start. There doesn’t seem to have been much good news in 2020; but the coming of Jesus is good news.