Devotional Thoughts for the Sunday of the birth of St. John the Baptist, 7th Dec 2014

By the Grace of God Almighty we are entering the Sunday of the birth of St. John the Baptist, the forerunner of our Lord and Savior and we observe this Sunday as the Birthday of St. John the Baptist, the forerunner of our Lord and Savior. So also our Holy Church has dedicated this Sunday as the Children’s day. St. Luke gives us a detailed description of the incidents happened in the house of Priest Zechariahs and Elizabeth, soon on the birth of their son. In the first
verse of today’s reading we read, “Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.” When we hear about the full time of Elizabeth, we must realize it as the full time of the vow of silence of Priest Zechariah. Though Zechariah did not accept the silence as his own choice, he converted the time for blessings and compassion from God Almighty. As soon as the child was born, there was a controversy among the relatives and close ones regarding the name to be given. Priest Zechariah’s silence turned to be a blessing in disguise in this matter also. So when he wrote the name ‘John’ it was the end. If he was able to talk then and there, it would have caused a war of words among the close relatives, as the name John was new in their family tree. When Zechariah was made silent as a sort of punishment for not trusting the words of the Angel, he did not get agitated, frustrated or disappointed. He accepted the punishment and converted as a blessing. He utilized his time and energy to be with God Almighty. He might have used the time for frequent prayers, silent meditations and supplications. He might have remembered the words of God Almighty through the Psalmist, “Be still
and know that I am God.” In Orthodox tradition there is much importance for the silence. But many of us do not try to depend this way of pleasing God. The time we spend in silence, enables us to be closer to God and the worship in heaven. When one remains in silence, he or she could submit him or her completely to God’s disposal. When we would surrender ourselves with all our heart and interests, it would be a tremendous experience. It will be definitely better than God compelling or forcing one to surrender. When Zechariah surrendered and submitted himself to God, he became able to profess. When his tongue was loosed, he praised God.
According to the tradition the new born was to be named and the concerned or the responsible tried to name the child ‘Zechariahs’ according to the custom that prevailed among them. But Elizabeth objected the attempt and suggested to name her son John. It was a matter of confusion for the cousins and neighbors that had come to the house. But when Priest Zechariahs wrote the name on a writing table, the total confusion was eradicated and the name ‘John’ was approved. Immediately after this, His mouth was opened, and his tongue was loosed, and he spoke and praised God.
Priest Zechariah is again reminding us how a role model must be. He opened his mouth not for anything else other than praising God. We should not forget the truth that he had been dumb for so many days together. If we were in his position, we would have attempted to contact either one of the close friends on phone at least. We are obliged to God Almighty to praise Him for each and every gifts and services that we do enjoy from time to time, without any effort of our own. In verse 65 and 66 we read: “And fear came on all that dwell round about them and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea. And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts saying: what manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.” The feelings and responses of the people who heard and witnessed all those incidents were unique and it was only because of the grace of God. Let this experience be a guide line for all of us. From verses 68 we listen to the hymn of Priest Zechariah. Hymns and
songs are the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In the first few chapters of St. Luke we find such hymns from various persons who were filled with the Holy Spirit. Now it is the turn of Zechariah. In verse 68 we hear “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people.” Lord Jesus did not get incarnated yet. Still he says with full conviction that Lord has visited and redeemed his people. Holy Spirit only made him say so. Verse 69 is also about the incarnation of
our Lord and Savior. In verse 70 he refers to the Prophets who had been instrumental in professing about the arrival of Son of God. Likewise from verses 71 to 74 Zechariah says about the redemption to be achieved through the savior and redeemer. Verse 75 is very significant, where we read, “(we would serve him without fear) in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life.” We enjoyed the sweetness of salvation, and we do live and enjoy the same.
Still do we worship God in holiness and righteousness without fear? We must spend at least a few minutes in silence and meditation every day. Then only we could realize Him as our redeemer, savior and Almighty God. If one would spend little time daily in silence and meditation, he or she could achieve freedom from selfishness easily. The need of the hour is to seek more closeness to God Almighty. Let us pray and seek His blessings and compassion. Now many are cautioned about the disaster that might come out due to the weakness of the Mullaperiyar Dam. God Almighty only could save us from all sorts of disasters. Let us pray with confidence, hope and trust in Him. He will not fail us or forsake us. Let us pray for the Church, society and the entire creation around us.
May God bless us all
Jose Kurian Puliyeril, Kottayam

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