“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'” (Mark 1:1 – 3)
Some days I prepare the way of the Lord, lifting up the cause of the Divine and raising myself up to meet the expectations that the Divine and the way of living that the Christian life has. Other days I need the Lord God to prepare the way, and to meet me along the way because I do not have what I need. Both, beloved reader, are acceptable stances and positions. The prophet Isaiah (supposedly) pointed to John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ as coming to both the preparation and what needed to be prepared for. We can be ready to prepare, and be ready to be prepared.
“John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” (Verses 4 – 5)
Baptism has an odd place in the Christian life. It can be the very beginning where we pledge to live more accountable. It can be in the middle where we have seen the error of our ways, and learned what we need to do – an outer symbol of what has been up to that point an inner journey. Or it can be at the end, where we are living a new life cleansed and made whole. This final step of baptism brings us into the company of other saints and like-minded believers, and from baptism on we do not stray from the path of Christianity. Now, you may dispute my theology, but I remind you that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Who can say, or would say, where Jesus was on his journey when the baptism took place. John did not feel that the Christ needed baptism, but Jesus asked for it – so there you are!
“Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.” (Verse 6)
John was an odd person. Well, maybe his clothing and lifestyle were representative of him living a life at odds with the mainstream society of his time. Other prophets, mystics, and saints have lived at odds with their contemporaries. Jesus was odd in his own way. And between the two of them, their oddities shatter the known world . . . and continue to do so.
“He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Verses 7 – 8)
Baptism with water is something that most Christians have experienced. While it has a great impact at the time, and remains a touchstone throughout the Christian life (oh let’s not consider those who have gone astray since baptism), baptism with the Holy Spirit is on a completely different plane. Baptism with water happens once, or maybe twice. Baptism with the Holy Spirit is actually the opening of a conduit that remains active for the rest of your life – or at least has the potential to do so. I speak from experience, beloved reader. It is not always “comforting” however. But it does keep one’s faith alive and is an ongoing reminder that no matter what happens, one is not alone. And that is a Holy Presence that is only a brief pray – nay, a brief thought away! Shalom & Selah!