Mark 1:1-8 is one of the lectionary readings for Sunday, December 10, 2017.

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'” John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” 

In the first eight verses of his gospel, Mark tells the story of John the baptizer, the man with an odd fashion sense and even odder dietary choices. While John surely is intriguing, I have often wondered about the folks who traipsed out the wilderness to hear him preach. What were they expecting from this fiery preacher: A good show? Relief from boredom? A bit of hope? Whatever they were looking for, seems like they got more than they bargained for. Their listening resulted in confession of sin and a trip into the river.

On that day, these “people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem” joined themselves to the work God was doing through John. They had no fear of the water. They didn’t mind getting wet. But they also seemed to have no fear of those whom they would meet in the water The Jordan was crowded that day, and those who waded in opened themselves to fellowship with a wonderfully diverse new family.

May our story be one and the same. May we walk without fear into the swirling waters. May we be unafraid of those whom we encounter in the river, unafraid of living  out the gospel message with them, and unafraid of joining in the work that God is doing in the world.

Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.