The prophet Isaiah brought a message of hope and comfort to the people of Israel who were in exile in Babylon. Despite their failings, God is ever merciful and has promised them a new beginning. John the Baptist appears in the line of the great prophet, and again promises Israel the chance of a new beginning if they repent and turn again towards God. The emphasis in Mark’s portrait of John the Baptist is very much that of the subordinate. John’s self-effacing manner makes it clear that he is not the one who is promised, but the one who is to prepare the way. The emphasis in John’s preaching is on judgment; for Jesus it is on the reign of God and salvation. Advent is also a time of new beginnings, and John the Baptist’s ‘voice in the wilderness’ is a personal invitation to each of us to prepare a way for the Lord into our lives now. What special preparation for Christmas will you undertake this year? How may this be different from what you have done in the past?