DEC. 23. ADVENT WK. 4. WED. (B) LK. 1. 57-66
The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son; and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord c had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her joy.
Now on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother spoke up. ‘No,’ she said ‘he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘But no one in your family has that name’, and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called. The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they were all astonished. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea. All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.
As the Church approaches Christmas it is interesting to note who it focuses its attention on before Christ’s birth. It has been Mary, Christ’s mother for the last few days, so why almost on the eve of Christmas, do we now move to John the Baptist?
I think the answer is because John can be seen to represent “ordinary” Christians, if such a term exists, as he had a limited and specific role that was allocated to him by God the Father prior to his conception; - in the same way that each and every member of the Mystical Body has been allocated a specific role and mission.
John lived a totally hidden life, in the same way as Christ lived a hidden life. He appears suddenly in Scripture “dwelling in the desert”, and his life after he announced Christ was very short, being “condemned to death”, in imitation of Christ. What is clear however is: - He had a mission from God; - He was aware of this truth; - He was a humble man; - A man of Faith, and a man of Prayer. And Christ, Mary and John each lived a hidden life, as we do today?
So, before the birth of Christ the Church focuses our minds on Mary the Mother of God, and on John the Baptist, both of whom are models for those who are conscious of their Christian Vocation. They are both Humble; - they are both people of Faith; - they are both people of Prayer; - and they both lived a Hidden Life; - the essential characteristics of anyone who wishes to be a student, and a follower of Christ.
Remember, we are talking about a period before Christ was born; - but they are both witnesses to the attributes necessary if one is to be in the right state of mind to learn from the life of the Christ who was about to be born. It is also interesting to note that Christ will live and preach these same attributes?
On the eve of Christ’s birth these are the same attributes that we need to have. Both Mary and John were people who had clearly placed God, their Creator, at the centre of their lives, and everything else resolved around the Will of that Creator; - with both being very conscious of their role as servants.
And this is the state of mind we need to be in over the coming days, when we see our God appear on earth as an infant child, born in stable. A lesson that calls on us to be humble of heart, to be people of faith, to be people of prayer, and to be people who are prepared to learn from Christ; - who is still with us in the Eucharist; - how to be a humble servant of God, Our Creator!