“The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.“ (Mark 1:1, NIV)
That’s how Mark begins his Gospel. No genealogy, no manger, no shepherds or wise men. Where Matthew and Luke build up to that conclusion – that Jesus is the Son of God – Mark puts it out there in the first sentence. He’s not one to beat around the bush or leave you in suspense.
In a sense, Mark was like his contemporaries in the early church. To them, Jesus’ birth was not nearly as important as his resurrection. What mattered most was the cross and the empty tomb.
But by the second century, pagans began mocking the idea of the virgin birth. Gnostics began doubting that Jesus would actually come in the flesh. And so, Christmas began to grow in importance in the church. Christmas celebrations became central to the church calendar.
And, beginning in December every year around the world, the Gospel of Mark gets ignored – because 1:1 is his only “Christmas” verse.
But rest assured: This IS the Christmas story. If Jesus is not the Son of God, why does any of this matter – the season, the carols, the lights, the gifts – they’re all meaningless. Mark begins with the most important fact of Scripture – and he doesn’t beat around the bush.
And just so we don’t miss it, Mark closes Jesus’ story with the same words. Jesus was on the cross and gave his last breath: “And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”” (Mark 15:39, NIV).
Mark starts his Gospel with his own testimony. But don’t take his word for it. Listen to the testimony of one of his executioners. This is the Son of God!
Two-thousand years ago, he came. Sunday we start our Christmas sermon series “Believe.” I’m going to be talking about why I believe in Christmas! I hope you’ll join us.