Isaiah 40:1-11
40Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.  2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has
received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
3 A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in
the desert a highway for our God.  4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every
mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the
rough places a plain.  5 Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people
shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”  6 A voice says, “Cry
out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like
the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of
the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass.  8 The grass withers, the flower
fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.
9 Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice
with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the
cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”  10 See, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his
arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.  11 He will
feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them
in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

Gospel of Mark 1:1-8
1The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”

4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance
for the forgiveness of sins.  5 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. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a
leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.  7 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.  8 I have baptized you with water; but he
will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Catching the CBS Evening News on Friday, I listened intently to a story
reported by Steve Hartman. His ‘On The Road’ segment told of two Miami,
Florida preschoolers, Jia Sarnicola and Zuri Copeland.
Both are age four. They claim to be not just best friends; and insist they are
more than sisters. Jia and Zuri claim to be twins. Both of the girl’s Moms confirm
that Jia and Zuri believe they are twins, saying that their girls have a long list of
reasons why. The reasons are all about similarities.
The girls say they are both four, nearly share the same birthday, and have
obvious physical similarities like height. Because they think themselves twins,
they insist on matching outfits – whenever possible.
For now, both Moms indulge their daughters concerning this belief. But the
Moms are both aware of the inevitable times coming when their girls’ belief will
be threatened and their hearts broken. Sadly, as Jia and Zuri grow up, society will
attempt to impose its influence. Society has already tried.
A month ago, Jia and Zuri were at a birthday party when an older kid told
them they couldn’t be twins because they don’t have the same skin color. You see,
Jia has light-white skin and Zuri has dark-brown skin.
Jia broke down in tears, but then recovered to say, “You don’t know what
you’re talking about. We’re twins because we share the same soul.”

Jia pushed back at divisive, societal prejudices, and so must we.
At a time in history when racial tension, discrimination, narrow-mindedness,
apathy and silence threaten to divide us from one another, the prophetic words of a
four-year- old resound with hope and encouragement for a better tomorrow.
https://www.cbsnews.com/videos/preschool-twins- take-a- stand-against- discrimination/
December 8, 2017
In the midst of human struggle and suffering, prophetic voices announce
God’s initiative actively entering the human experience. God enters for the
purpose of restoring, healing and reshaping our lives with peace, justice, mercy,
and compassion.
This is good news. This is news of hope, encouragement and promise – as
we work and wait and pray and watch.
The prophet Isaiah announced God’s initiative to the Jews broken and held
captive in Babylon. When Jerusalem and the southern kingdom of Judah fell at the
hands of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BC, many Jews were
slaughtered, and others were taken hostage and transported to Babylon (in modern
day Iraq). Fifty years later the Jews were liberated, by the Persian King Cyrus, to
return to the ruins of their land and Temple – yet, under Persian rule. The prophet
announced to the Jews in Babylon the hope-filled news of anticipating God’s
comfort and restoration.
These prophetic words encouraged God’s people to look for God’s hand
crafting this opportunity, as well as expecting God opening up more possibilities as
they entered their Promised Homeland.
Centuries later, Mark wrote his Good News story to a people suffering under
the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire.
Mark’s message to first century Jesus-followers and future generations
rekindled the hopefulness that God is actively working to establish a new, Divine
vision for humanity – a vision made clear in Jesus.

Mark’s story ignites our hope today.
John the Baptizer heralds for us the astonishing news to prepare the way of
the Lord in our world. This news requires our immediate attention, heartfelt
repentance, and sincere willingness to cooperate with God.
Even as Jesus came into the world so long ago to bring about God’s reign,
rejection still abounds. In our world of suffering due to greed, discrimination and
apathy we are to work as if God is already here, while anticipating God bringing
the work of Divine justice and peace to fulfillment.
We are to prepare the way for God’s awaited new vision – a reality on the
horizon.
Our waiting and working for justice and peace will not be in vain. There is
soon coming a time when powers will bow to God’s reign and the downtrodden
will rejoice.
During this Advent Season, we anticipate not only the celebration of
Emmanuel – God is with us, but also our emancipation from everything that
imposes suffering, destruction and division. God brings freedom from all that is
unholy so we can live as God intends – in love and peace and harmony with God
and one with another.
As prophetic voices both ancient and modern challenge the world’s status
quo, voices like Isaiah, John the Baptizer, Mark and four-year- old Jia, be assured
God is listening, watching and working to bring about colossal changes for our
good.
As we prepare the way of the Lord by working and waiting and praying and
watching, I invite you to gladly embrace the good news that God is not stagnant,
but active, and will be here soon.
Prepare the way, because God is coming, ready or not.