Having decided that we want a dog, our family is debating when and what kind. This discussion has me reminiscing over my childhood pet, a dog named Anne, known officially as “Happy to Be Here Anne.”
Anne was a yellow, English labrador with a pink nose. She was a constant companion, gentle in demeanor and quick to make a new friend. She had a funny little habit of blinking her eyes one at a time. Since her eyes were outlined by her light fur it often looked like she was winking at you.
My wife, having heard many stories of our sweet dog, now refers to her as St. Anne, the perfect pet. However, Anne was not always a saint.
One day, family friends stopped by with their new labrador puppy. It was so cute to see our full grown Anne and this little yellow pup. We went out into the back yard to play. All was going well until my mom sat down on the grass and picked up the puppy. Anne began running around the yard in big, wild circles. This was not unusual for her. She would often run when she was excited to have company visiting.
Anne kept running, charging between trees, over gardens, swooping in and out of sight. Suddenly her circle brought her very close to my mother. Then a second time. Finally Anne crashed into my mother’s shoulder knocking her flat and spilling the puppy out her arms. She neither barked nor growled, Anne just stood there looking at my mom. If she could talk I am sure she would have said, “This puppy is an interloper! We are a one dog family and I am your dog!” This was the only time I can remember Anne being jealous.
Just like Anne, sometimes we need to be selfish, but only a little bit. Isn’t being selfish a bad thing? Yes it is, but bear with me a little longer. In preparing for advent this year, I’ve spent some time in the gospel of Mark. Mark is a bit of an unusual gospel. It is the shortest account of the life of Jesus and completely leaves out the Christmas story. Instead of starting with the birth of Jesus, Mark announces to us “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God,” and then throws us into the ministry of John the Baptist.
What on earth does this have to do with Christmas or being a little selfish? John prepared the way for Jesus. The people of Israel were confessing their sins and receiving a baptism of repentance. They were getting themselves ready to meet the Christ. In verse 7, John says, “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.”
I’ve always understood this verse to mean that John was speaking humbly of how unworthy he is compared to Jesus. Verse 9 puzzled me as “Unworthy John” has the honor of baptizing Jesus. John moved from unworthy to worthwhile in just a couple of sentences. What changed? Not John. He was still the same man who claimed to be unworthy. The change came through Jesus. Jesus gave John worth.
Mark’s gospel isn’t just for John, it’s for all of us. While Christmas is a reminder about the birth of Jesus, Jesus came because he loves you and because he wants a relationship with you. Christmas is about the good news of Jesus and that good news declares that despite how unworthy you may feel, you are of infinite worth to God. So, be a little selfish, revel in the love you have received from God and then share that love with someone else.
Rev. Josh Walker is the pastor of Valleyview Evangelical Friends Church located at 868 W. William St. in Delaware.