Message from Rev. Dr. Andrew Lyons

As you receive this Newsletter we are entering into the season of Advent and Christmas. We are also, in the liturgical calendar entering into Year B, when Mark’s gospel takes centre stage as our Gospel for the year.  And, as you know, Mark has no nativity story.  Mark is content to start his Gospel with the words –  ‘The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (the Son of God)’.

Matthew and Luke offer us rich stories to contemplate the meaning of Jesus – John’s prologue offers us deep theological reflection in the form of a poem/hymn.  Mark seems to offer us very little.  But this is only because we are so used to the words Jesus Christ – we almost assume the Jesus is the first name and Christ the surname.

However, Christ – which is Messiah in Jewish terminology – means God’s anointed one and/or Saviour.  Some manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel include Son of God and others omit it.  This may be because some copyists thought it necessary to emphasise the significance of the term Christ.  But early readers of the Gospel would have been very aware of the significance of the title.  

For the Roman emperors were also titled ‘Christ’ – and Son of God.  In particular Augustus Caesar, who ruled at the time of the birth of Jesus, was lauded as the Saviour who brought ‘Pax Romana’ – that is the peace of Rome to the world.  But Rome had brought peace through military might and continuing occupation of the lands it had conquered.  The Gospel of Mark will declare that the bringer of peace is not the emperor but the man from Galilee – on whom the Spirit descends at his baptism in Mark 1: 10 and the voice of God is heard to say ‘this is my Son, my beloved, on whom my favour rests’ (vs 11).

This is enough for Mark – to declare that the Saviour, the Christ, the Messiah, the Son, has come – and his work begins to bring healing and wholeness, hope and life to the people of Israel – and in time to all the world – including to you and to me.  So I pray that Jesus Christ will be with you and in your midst as you celebrate this Christmas, beginning again in our individual lives, in our Churches and in our communities the work of the Kingdom.