There's so much in the gospel reading for the second Sunday of Advent and I seem to keep coming back to the very first verse, the opening verse of the Gospel of Mark: "the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." Actually, I'm not even getting past the first two words.
Mark then introduces us to John the Baptist who introduces us to Jesus - the very adult Jesus - who is the one for whom we must "prepare the way." There's no birth of Jesus story, Mark cuts right to the chase: here's "the good news" (that's literally what "gospel" means, by the way), here's Jesus.
But three weeks before Christmas, shouldn't we be preparing for the birth story? We're hearing this in Advent because Advent isn't a chronological season. It's about preparing for the Jesus who has come, is coming now and will come again. That's why we can hear about what will happen when Jesus returns (last weeks' gospel), how Jesus ministry is introduced by John, and how Jesus comes to us again this Christmas. And how the angel Gabriel visits Mary … on the Sunday before Christmas. It doesn't need to be in real time because it's part of a story whose meaning is timeless.
But back to "the beginning." There's something else in that. It's not just about being the beginning of a text that ends (rather abruptly) sixteen chapters later with a rather open-ended ending. There's no "The End." It's about the beginning of something that is still going, still growing, still preparing a highway for God (Mark 1:3).
It reminds me that we are constantly at the beginning, the beginning of something new. This isn't the same Advent as before, or the same Christmas or the same December. Sure, there may be things that feel or look similar, but they're not the same. Every moment has the potential for a new beginning.
Now lets add the rest of the sentence: "the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ." Let's add John's call to be ready, to make the pathway ready for Jesus to come, to repent and turn to follow that path with Jesus. Every step becomes a new beginning.