Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Jesus Without Christmas

Mark 1:1-8
Chatfield United Methodist Church
Jesus without Christmas
December 7, 2014

I’m in a funk this year. I usually love the holiday season. All of it, Christmas, Advent Hanukkah, Kwanza, the cold, the snow, the frost, the lights, the food, the music…All of it.
But this year, not so much. I don’t know what it is exactly. It could be the middle east, it could be police brutality, it could be a typhoon that is once again hitting the Philippians, I have friends who live in the Philippians, or it could be that so many of you are dealing with difficult health issues and you are on my heart and in my prayers. It could be a lot of things.

I don’t know what it is exactly. All I know is that I am not as joyful as I usually am. I’m sharing this with you not so you can feel sorry for me or try to help me cheer up or anything like that. I just want you to know that sometimes, even pastors, have funks…

Even during Advent and Christmas.

So for me, the fact that we are in the Gospel of Mark is perfect.
Why? What do I mean, we are in the Gospel of Mark?

Each year on the first Sunday of Advent our Gospel readings change. All last year we were in the Gospel of Matthew. This year we will be reading from the Gospel of Mark. Expect that we won’t.
Now here is the thing, we will heard the Gospel of Mark read last Sunday on Advent 1 and today on Advent 2 but we will not read from it again until January 11, which is the Sunday we observe and remember the baptism of Jesus.
We will read from Matthew, Luke and John but not Mark.

So what you say. We don’t really care which scripture is read, just so something is read that is biblical.

Well, I want to tell you that you should care. Or at least pay close attention.
Mark will not be read from again throughout December, for a very good reason.
I went into this detail to get to a point. Here is the point:

There is NO nativity story in the Gospel of Mark. No baby in a manger. No angels singing Halleluiahs. No shepherds coming in from the fields. No wise-men traveling from distant lands. Not a star. Not a stable. Not even Bethlehem. EVER. Throughout the whole of the Gospel.

It is as if Christmas doesn’t exist in Mark.

So now I want you to imagine something: Imagine what this sanctuary would look like without a baby in a manger, wise-men traveling from the East with gifts  (or in our case the narthex), without angels, or shepherds or Mary and Joseph…

Imagine what it would be like to celebrate Jesus without Christmas.

Imagine what it would be like to celebrate Jesus without Christmas.
Not Christmas without Jesus, but Jesus without Christmas.

I like that we left ornaments off the sanctuary tree. I think maybe this will become our tradition in the years we read Mark. Because all there is in the Gospel of Mark is a light, shining in the darkness.

The Gospel of Mark begins:
The beginning of the good news…
The beginning of the good news that the prophets are coming to fulfillment.
The beginning of the good news that God is coming to us.
The beginning of the good news that truly there is comfort for our people.
But the good news is not joy to the world, the lord is come.

The Advent hymn for Mark would be more along the lines of a Neal and Leandra Song that I would like to play for you now:
When I first heard this song it was on the Morning Program, I literally pulled over my car to hear this song. I called my friend Donna and told her about it.
It pierced my heart.

This is the actual program I was listening to when I first heard this song. This song is on the excellent album Angels and Fools. Available here:

The good news of Mark is not the birth of a baby but the foolishness of God come to us. The emphasis in the book of Mark is on the progression of events in Jesus’ life that will lead to his death.
Mark’s Gospel could be called: The Guide to getting yourself Crucified.

As you are putting your baby in mangers this Advent season, remember what a foolish act this was. God come to us. The prophets fulfilled. Righteousness and Truth will kiss. And we will learn that the way to be free is to fight for the chance to be last. But we will also learn that we will put to death such goodness.

The child light is shining, not with tinsel or ornaments or reflected glory, but with a steady light of love, of justice, of comfort for God’s people. We just have to imagine it. And live it. And believe it, even when you feel as if you can’t.

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