Matthew’s Gospel tells us of the Magi. Luke tells us of shepherds and angels. John tells us about Jesus’ eternal nature. But Mark? Why would anyone go to Mark for Christmas? Because Mark tells us about the King!
Christmas in the Gospel of Mark
I’ve been preaching for, more or less, 33 years (one whole Jesus). That’s over a month of Christmases and a whole season of Advent seasons. I’ve preached angels, shepherds, wise men, Mary, Joseph, Zechariah, Elizabeth, and even Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. My Navidad has been fully feliz’d.
But I’ve never preached Mark for Christmas. And for good reason, really. It’s just not there! Mark is either short on time or paper. He gives us no angels with announcements, no virgin with child, no gold, frankincense or myrrh. Mark jumps right in at Jesus’ baptism and the start of his ministry. From verse one, Mark tells us what he’s writing about. “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Mark is writing about the King.
Who Do You Say That I Am?
We began the first Sunday of Advent with the middle of Mark’s Gospel and Peter’s confession of Christ. It’s here that Peter confesses what we’ve sung about in “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Peter confesses, “You are the Christ.” Literally, “You are the king.” Peter’s confession tells us why this kid is worth singing about.
By looking at Peter’s confession we see that our celebration of Christmas is our declaration of our King. It’s not just about the holiday, it’s about who we say Jesus is.
Recovering the Wonder of Christmas
The inspiration for this series came from a Preaching Today article by Matt Erickson. Matt suggested several Advent series ideas to build anticipation for Christmas. Matt’s examples included a series titled, “King Coming.” I took the texts and themes, changed the title to “The Birth of the King” and have enjoyed experiencing Christmas through Mark’s perspective on Jesus’ reign.
Matt writes of his own experience with his Mark series, “I enjoyed approaching Advent in this way because it forced me and the congregation to look at texts and themes that we do not often associate with Advent.” I can appreciate his words. I also appreciate his confession that “there were times that felt discordant, such as preaching a passage typically associated with “Palm Sunday” during the final week of Advent.”
I’m only a week into the series and I get that. But I appreciate the challenge. I don’t know if the congregation needs the new perspective on Christmas that Mark offers, but I know I need to change things up from time-to-time or my holiday preaching becomes stale.
The Birth of the King
I’ve always had the sense that one of the struggles with Christmas isn’t just the build-up but the pack up. For the whole month we push, sing, energize, and stress our way to the holiday. Then, come December 26th, we pack it all up and put it away for another year. The celebration is over.
But the declaration is never over. The birth of the king is merely the beginning of the story. I believe that is one of Mark’s key points. From his first verse to very abrupt (shorter) ending, I believe he moves his audience to the realization that this declaration isn’t just for a season–it’s for all time and for everyone.
Glory to the newborn King!