2 Peter 3.8-15a
“They say Aslan is on the move – perhaps has already landed.” The voice of Mr Beaver in C S Lewis’s “The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe” speaking to Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. They have no idea who Aslan is or the significance of these words. Even so, something in them jumps at the name of Aslan. Edmund feels “a sensation of horror” for reasons which the reader will know, but the other three experience wonderful sensations of encountering something lovely and deeply meaningful. Later the Beavers describe Aslan as the great King and Lord of all. He’s also a lion which comes as something of a shock to the children. From this point in the story we are watching and waiting for the great Aslan to make his appearance on the pages of the book even though we don’t know the full meaning of this.
Mark begins his account of “the good news of Jesus Christ” with words crafted to bring with them a sense of excitement and wonder but also a sense that something potentially frightening is about to happen. He introduces us to John, proclaiming in the wilderness a baptism for the forgiveness of sins. With John’s voice Mark then sets the stage for the dramatic entrance of the “one who is more powerful”.
Throughout his book Mark will write about the secrecy of Jesus’ identity, how people fail to recognise him as the Christ and misunderstand his words and actions. But Mark wants to sure we understand from the very beginning who it is we’re reading about. He reaches back into the Hebrew scriptures to prophecies made by prophets about the coming of the Christ:
“See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me” (Malachi 3.1)
“A voice cries out: ‘in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40.3)
He then describes John as that messenger preparing the Lord’s way using words similar to a description of Elijah, “a hairy man, with a leather belt around his waist.” (2 Kings 1.8) This is significant too because it was generally believed that before Messiah came Elijah would return to earth.
Finally we hear John proclaiming that there is indeed someone more powerful than him coming soon. From Mark’s word sketch of what is happening here we can surely be in no doubt that this “more powerful” one is in fact the Christ, God’s chosen one, Messiah.
Certainly huge numbers of people responded to John’s cry by repentance and baptism.
What about us today?
As we prepare for Christmas we probably all have pictures in our minds of nativity scenes and plays we’ve encountered over the years: angels, shepherds, cows and a donkey, Mary and Joseph and, of course, a newborn baby.
But what about pictures of hairy, wet prophets calling out loudly that we need to think about our lives, repent, turn away from the things we say and do which hurt us and other people? We’re to get in that river and be soaked through so that we can go on our way clean and right with God.
When Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy learn that Aslan is a lion they’re shocked and a little afraid, “Is he safe?” they ask. “Who said anything about safe” says Mr Beaver, “’course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”
We might be challenged this Advent to prepare the way of the Lord into our lives once again or to renew our search for purpose and meaning if we feel we’re drifting aimlessly.
If we’re busy, stressed and overwhelmed by all there is to do we may be challenged to clear a space, just a little one, for God to reach us. Just a little break from noisy busyness to listen for that still small voice speaking peace on earth.
Or we might be energised by an exciting urgent voice telling us to get up and do something to bring God’s kingdom nearer.
Perhaps we are called to be prophetic voices in our day, called to “speak tenderly” to God’s people in preparation for the day when the glory of the Lord will once again be revealed.
Whatever God’s challenge to us this Advent, whether it’s unexpected and scary or reassuring and gentle, one thing we can be sure of is that it will be coming from a God of goodness and love who wants only to see our salvation.
Our God speaks tenderly to his people and cares for them as a shepherd cares for his sheep. Let us therefore bring to him our thanks and our prayers for our own needs and the needs of others.
In this Advent season we pray for God’s church throughout the world. We pray that she will indeed be a herald of good tidings, speaking in a strong voice of the glory of the Lord revealed in Jesus Christ.
We pray for all the nations of the world and their leaders. We pray that in all the uneven, rough and unjust places of the world the way of the Lord may be prepared to bring equality, healing and justice to all his people.
We pray for the communities in which we live, work and worship. We pray that with God’s help we will reveal his glory in the way we live and in his love we will be at peace with all people.
We pray for all those in particular need who are weak and vulnerable. We pray that they will be touched by God’s gentle tenderness bringing them comfort and strength.
Heavenly Father, we bring our prayers to you, trusting in your great faithfulness and compassion. As we look forward to celebrating once again the birth of your Son, Jesus Christ, help us also to look forward to the time of his coming again and to prepare ourselves for that day when your kingdom will at last be established on earth.