400 years of silence. Imagine that!
The last recorded time God spoke to the people of the Old Testament was through the prophet Malachi who ended his book with the words, ‘See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes’ (Mal. 4:5). And then, nothing. Complete silence.
400 years later a strange figure turns up looking and sounding like Elijah (see 2 Kings 1:8). It’s no wonder that when Mark records this event he says, ‘The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him’ (Mark 1:5). After such a long period of silence it looks like God is speaking again and people flock to hear what he’s got to say.
So what does God say after 400 years of silence?
this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:7-8)
God, through the mouth of John the Baptist, simply points to Jesus. This Jesus will open the way for the Holy Spirit to bring about a deep peace and hope that can’t be achieved by any human rituals or traditions. This is the ‘gospel’, the ‘good news’, the great announcement with which Mark begins his account of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus (Mark 1:1). He’s simply saying, ‘This Jesus, he’s the one that was promised long ago to bring about the peace we had always hoped for.’
As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, that good news announcement is just as valid for us today. While it is human nature to try and find peace and hope in all sorts of human endeavours, our only source of true peace and hope is in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The season of Advent leading up to Christmas is a time in which we reflect on our human endeavours and realise that they fade into insignificance compared to the peace and hope to be found in Jesus.
That’s why Christmas is such a big deal to the Christian church. That’s why every year we stand and sing, ‘Joy to the world, the Lord has come!’
May the joy, hope and peace of Jesus be yours this Christmas.
Spiritual and Cultural Leader