top of page

Going Home


Right at the beginning of the pandemic, just as everything was shutting down, I received an urgent call from my daughter. She was studying at UBC, but the campus had just been shut down, and the airlines were starting to cancel flights, and she was facing the prospect of being quarantined in a house in the suburbs of Kelowna with people she didn’t know that well. “Dad,” she said, “I want to come home.”


Have you ever wanted to go home? Maybe there was a time you were in hospital. Do you remember how you felt when the doctor finally told you that you were going home? Or perhaps it was school or work that took you away from home, and you got a little homesick. Think of the millions of people in Gaza who have been forced from their homes. How desperately they long to go home. Imagine being a refugee, a displaced person or in exile. Think about all that home means to you. There’s nothing like going home.


The good news begins in the wilderness. Away from home. Our gospel reading today is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. That’s how Mark announces his gospel. And that beginning is located in the wilderness, in the desert, on the banks of the Jordan River, a good day’s journey or more from where people actually lived. Have you ever wondered why John appeared in the wilderness? Why he began to baptize people in a remote area, calling them out of their villages and far from home?


John appeared in the wilderness because the good news begins in the wilderness. In exile. Away from home.


But what is the good news?


Like any good biblical author, Mark tells us what the good news is not by giving us a definition, or by explaining it in words. Instead, he gives us a story. He points us to the story found in today’s Old Testament reading, “as it is written in the prophet Isaiah.” It’s the story of a people in exile, a people who suffer. The people of Israel are in exile in Babylon, in the wilderness. They are a people who long to go home


It is to this people, a people who think that God has forgotten them, that God says “Comfort, O comfort my people.”  The word ‘comfort’ in Hebrew has a nuance that we miss in English. The Hebrew word for comfort speaks not just of comfort, but of the great reversals needed to get there. It is about a change in our hearts and lives for the better. Those who are in anguish will receive comfort. Despair becomes hope, sorrow will be changed to joy, those who mourn will dance. And when spoken to this people in particular, “comfort” means that those who are in exile will go home. The good news will bring about a great reversal.


God says to the prophet, “Comfort, O comfort my people.” “But what shall I say?” asks the prophet. How can I comfort this people? This is a people in exile, a people who long to go home. “How can we go home?” they ask. “When can we go home?” they ask. What shall I cry out?


And God says to the prophet, go and proclaim good tidings, good news, to the people. Get you up a high mountain and cry out, “Here is your God!” Your God will take you home.”


This is the good news.  For those in exile, for those who mourn, for those who are lonely or estranged, for those who despair, for those who are oppressed, for all those who long to go home, whatever that means for you, here is your God, your God will take you home.


Which is why Mark begins his gospel in the wilderness. Which is why John’s ministry of baptism takes place in the desert, far from home. The good news begins in the wilderness, in exile, away from home. To people who long to go home, the gospel begins with the proclamation that you are going home. Here is your God, the one who will take you home, like a shepherd gathering his flock and carrying the lambs home in his bosom.


The gospel is about going home. It is about great reversals: anguish to comfort, loneliness to belonging, despair to hope, sorrow to joy. It’s going to happen. We are going home. Here is your God. One more powerful than I is coming, says John. He will lead you home.



What would going home look like for you? For some, the refugee, the exile, those in hospital, those who are homeless, it might literally mean returning to that place where you have a roof over your head, where your family is, to the place where you belong. But going home also works as a symbol or metaphor for so many of the things that we long for in our lives: for peace, health, community, belonging, joy, meaning, a place where we can be fully ourselves. What would it mean for you to go home? Where is home for you?


And what are we to do in the meantime? We wait, from whatever place we find ourselves in now. But remember how last week we talked about how Advent waiting is not meant to be passive. Advent waiting, the wait for God to come, is meant to be a time of preparation, of getting ready.


So says the prophet:

In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord,

Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be lifted up,

And every mountain and hill be made low;

The uneven ground shall become level,

And the rough places a plain.


In the book of Isaiah, the people in exile would have to travel a thousand kilometers through the desert to get home. Your God will lead you home, says Isaiah, but you are to prepare the way by building a road, a highway, through the desert. God will lead his people home on the road that we are called to build, leveling the uneven ground and straightening the way. Again, this is an image that works on different levels, both literal and symbolic.


Mark, in his gospel, as he begins the good news, repeats the call for us to prepare the way of the Lord, to make his paths straight.


But I don’t think this is a call for us all to become construction workers working on new roads. What does it mean for us to prepare the way of the Lord? What does it mean to prepare the way for those in exile to go home? How can you help prepare the way for the person sitting beside you to go home?


We’re just at the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God in Mark’s gospel. Over the next year as we read through Mark, as we read about Jesus’ ministry, as we hear his story, we will surely learn more about what it means to prepare the way of the Lord. Even this first snippet, about John’s proclamation of a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, gives us a hint of what is to come. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.


This is the beginning of the good news. And the good news begins in the wilderness with the promise that you are going home, that your God will take you home.


Then, that promise is followed by a call, a call to prepare the way of the Lord, to do what we can to help God bring people home.


Let’s talk about that this morning. What does it mean to go home? And how can we prepare the way for one another?



Homily: Yr B Advent 2, Dec 10 2023, Trinity

Readings: Isaiah 40.1-11, Ps 85; 2 Peter 3.8-15a; Mark 1.1-8

Image by Laura Stanley



Mark's books are available at and

Related Posts
Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
bottom of page