The opening line of the Gospel of Mark is among the best of world literature. A memorable first line of a story projects it's fundamental meaning efficiently and artfully. It captures the imagination of the reader.
George Orwell begins 1984 with the line, "It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen." George Orwell anticipates our era of government that intentionally distorts and obscure's our perception of reality. "Fake News" is hardly new.
Sinclair Lewis begins his novel about religious charlatans and what we would come to know as megachurch preachers and televangelists with the line, "Elmer Gantry was drunk."
In Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka begins his tale of the degradation of humanity, this way: "George Samsa woke up in the morning after unsettling dreams and found himself changed into a loathsome insect."
Once we become lost in delusion and distortion, and the authentic prophetic voice of the preacher has been degraded by selfish greed, what we experience is indeed the degradation of the human lexperience. Each in their own way, artists and great writers alert us with alarming eloquence.
The writer of the Gospel of Mark deserves a place among the great literary artists of all time. In the opening sentence of the Gospel of Mark we read this arresting line:
"The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the son of God."
First notice it begins with a sentence fragment. The story that begins here does not end here. It continues to be told and retold in every generation.
Notice also the first word "the beginning" calls to mind another book, the Book of Genesis that also begins, "in the beginning." Here is an association with Creation. Mark is signaling that with the advent of Jesus Christ we have the beginning of a New Creation, the recreation of the world.
Just as in the book of Genesis, Creation proceeds through speech as God says "Let there be," so also the New Creation proceeds through speech. But this time it is our speech. The New Creation emerges as we go out tell the good news.
But this is not random good news, this is good news about Jesus the Christ. Christ here is not a last name but a title. The good news is about King Jesus. This is what the title Christ means.
But this king is not like any other king you have ever known before. Where is this king's grand palace? Where is the gold in his treasury? Or the opulence of his ornamentation?
Birds of the air have nests and foxes have holes, but this king has no place to lay his head. This king surrenders power so that in his powerlessness, to feed 5,000 people a child must first share his lunch with him. This king commands no force of arms. Rather, this king calls together a community of grace and says, "Love one another even as I have loved you."
And finally, this is a king who will be known as "Son of God". He will receive this title not the way Alexander the Great did, or by the way Julius Caesar did, or by the way Caesar Augustus did. He will not receive this tile because of the glory and the might that is revealed by his wealth and his ruthless domination and control others.
Jesus the Christ does not project an all-powerful God who demands obedience and threatens death to the rebellious. No, no. That is the god of Greece and Rome. As "Son of God" Jesus the Christ presents to the world a different kind of God. He presents a God who comes among us as one who serves, and who climbs up on a cross to do die for you.
The season of Advent introduces the greatest story ever told: "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the son of God." Having made a good beginning, let this story continue to be told in our own generation and for every generation to come.