Advent 2: Space for Grace

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:4)

When reading the Bible, we have to be careful to avoid reading what isn’t there.

This past Sunday, it would have been very easy for me or any other preacher to put words in the mouth of John the Baptist.  In accounts we find in other Gospels, he takes on the crowds, but in Mark’s version, his message is simple:   get ready, for a powerful One is on the way.

If we read Mark and stick to just what we find in the text, we find a presentation of John as an unusual but not necessarily off-putting guy.  Apparently, people felt comfortable enough to go out to the wilderness, hear him, and receive his baptism.  We find a man who carved out a spiritual space, so that people could make their own personal space for the Messiah.

Could you have space for grace out here?

Creating space.  A lot of what we do in church is just that.  We put all the right elements together so that people will have space, freedom, or even permission to experience new life in Christ.  We make space for grace.

I’m sure I’ve told this story before, but I was amazed a few years ago when our campus ministry Bible study group created a “space for grace” for a student who came in looking very upset.  We set aside the evening’s topic to focus on helping her.  We talked about the hurt she was carrying, and almost in unison, we said it’s OK to let it go.  I think we all left feeling that the Spirit had occupied our hearts.

I think John the Baptist was on to something in his ministry.  People really do want to confess and repent.  They may not use those terms to describe what’s going on in their hearts, but they crave a space to let things go and receive forgiveness.  They seek a space for grace.

How can we provide that space for someone else, and witness to God’s grace once the space is made?

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