Leaning into a Lived Theology for Advent
A Review of
Holy Disruption: Discovering Advent in the Gospel of Mark
Tracy S. Daub
Reviewed by Kevin Book-Satterlee
The gospel of Mark is, plainly, not a Christmas book. When I was invited to preach one Sunday this year as part of a series on Advent, I was excited to mix it up, and seek out a passage from Mark. Sadly, the needs of the preaching team dictated something else, but the concept still stuck with me. The idea struck Tracy S. Daub as well, and this year she has published Holy Disruption: Discovering Advent in the Gospel of Mark.
Advent is a hopeful time of year with nostalgic songs and plans to see family. It is a commercial time of year with Mariah Carey as the queen of Christmas blasting in every shopping mall speaker (even in Spain, where I live). It is also a tough time of year with frantic schedules, mourning loved ones, and wrapping gifts late into the night for the next day’s holiday party. And amid all that, a preacher seeks to preach about Baby Jesus, the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God, Emmanuel – God with Us, all leading to the invitation to love our neighbors. The Gospel of Mark may not be a Christmas book, but considering the themes, Daub sees it as a key text for Advent.
Regardless, no one will find it easy to seek out Advent in Mark– neither in personal reading nor preaching. As Daub remarks, doing so is like “trying to arrange a nativity set without the key characters,” (2). Where are the reference points? Where are the people we build our narratives on? Daub notes, the answer lies beyond the incarnational birth of Jesus, and points to the grander arc that God is with Us. Mark’s immediacy, his jarring claims and controversy, and the book’s urgency knock today’s reader from shopping, and carols, and polite dinners. There is no time for them in a world languishing, grappling for hope. Rather, Mark’s text is a wakeup call to see God in our midst, an invitation to be seeds of hope.
Daube is great at weaving together these key themes. Most importantly, though, she does not begin her short chapters with petty one-liners from Scripture to throw to Christian publishing, allowing the reader to gloss over Scripture when engaging Advent. Instead, she lets the Bible set the tone as she curates a collection of lengthier passages to open each chapter. While her biblical study is helpful, it is not meant to be solely an academic exercise. Daub highlights ways in which Mark’s Advent can inspire a lived theology. She weaves in helpful and relatable stories, and spurs on her audience to take Mark’s message of Emmanuel seriously.
This year, I didn’t get to try to disrupt the holidays by preaching out of Mark. While Daub’s book is a good and quick read, disruptive in its approach to the season, I did find it difficult to connect it with the holidays. It is either too much of a stretch or just too innovative for most. But Daub sets forth the challenge as something for me to seriously consider for next year. While the book is clear, concise, and confident, it may take the entire year to muster the courage to engage Mark’s advent provocation for Advent 2023 and beyond.
Kevin Book-Satterlee has been serving in cross-cultural and urban missional engagement for over 15 years. He is the director of Avance España, faculty adviser for Sioux Falls Seminary's Kairos Project, and completing his Doctor of Ministry in theological education and service-learning.
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