As we begin this new liturgical year and return in Year B to the Gospel of Mark, it is a little odd that we don’t begin with the opening lines of the Gospel. Surely we should be reading from the Infancy Narratives in Mark. Oh wait – there aren’t any. Yes, that’s right, you can tell the Gospel story and not worry at all about the story of the birth of Jesus. In fact St Paul does a rather splendid job of telling us about the significance of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and the only detail that he tells us about the birth of Jesus is in Galatians 4:4 – For in the fullness of time, God sent his Son into the world, born of a woman, born the subject of the law.” Yep, the only thing that Paul tells us across his thirteen letters about the birth of Jesus is that he was – gasp! – born of a woman. Thanks Paul. That is very helpful. So we could tell the Gospel story about Jesus and celebrate Christmas with just four words and fewer distractions: Merry Christmas. Today we celebrate the fact that Jesus was born of a woman. Even the Gospels that do mention the birth of Jesus – Matthew and Luke – would function rather well without all those stories and beginning like John* and Mark do with the adult public ministry of Jesus.
So what about this new season of Advent? Can the meaning and significance of all this longing for a Saviour and Redeemer also be cut out from the bible and leave it pretty much intact? Not likely – given that this theme makes up at least half of the Hebrew Scriptures and a huge chunk of the Christian Scriptures as well.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 5.30pm
Advent, Sunday 1, Year B.
Isaiah 63:16b–17, 19b, 64:2–7; Psalm 80:2–3, 15–16, 18–19; 1 Corinthians 1:3–9; Mark 13:33–37
* Okay, yes, of course John has his Prologue that talks about the incarnation of Jesus – being born in the flesh – but you could also argue that John 1:14 doesn’t add much more detail than Gal 4:4 already gives us: “And the Word became flesh and took up residence among us, and we saw his glory, glory as of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, LEB)