Excerpted from A Season of Hope. An Advent Guide for Lectionary Year B from the North Carolina Council of Churches.
And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
The ancient season of Advent offers Christians an opportunity to enter a space of hopefulness and anticipation. All around us is the anticipation of our Savior’s birth, along with the secular demands of the season that most of us get caught up in spite of our best intentions. Then Christmas comes and we celebrate the arrival of Jesus, hopefully with quiet reflection and thankfulness for the gift of Light born into a dark world.
As the seasons of Advent and Christmas wind down and we return to the day to day of our lives, it can be a challenge to keep the Light burning and the hope alive in our hearts. The world of late has seemed pretty bleak. War still rages, innocent people continue to be killed as we debate, we abuse and are quickly destroying the earth God provided. Basic civility appears to be lost.
The words of Mark 1:8: “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” remind us that though Christians are not exempt from pain and darkness, we have a light within that is eternal and will not be extinguished. We follow the example of Jesus, baptized by John, when we outwardly profess our faith and our intention of walking in the Light. As we move past the joyous Christmas season and into a new year, let us remember our own Baptism and the hope that resides in us. Despite the setbacks that seem never-ending, we are assured by our Creator of the promises to be fulfilled.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace, as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.