Saint for the day: Jahn Kanty – (June 24, 1390 – December 24, 1473)
Malachi 3:1-4,22-27 – Psalm 25 – Luke 1:57-66
“Good and upright is he Lord; thus he shows sinners the way.” (Psalm 25)
As we get closer and closer to the celebration of the Christmas Feast we seem to be running on parallel tracts with today’s Holy Gospel giving us the account of the naming of John the Baptist. You’d think that we’d be hearing of Mary and Joseph’s trek to Bethlehem. So what’s the significance of today’s Liturgy?
Remember John’s response when the people asked him “Are you the Messiah or are we to look for another?” He said, “I am not He and I am not fit to carry His sandals. I must decrease so that He might increase. (Luke 3:16)
Interesting Fact No. 321: Nobody knows the precise date of the Birth of Jesus but the Church landed on the date of December 25th based on the Northern Hemisphere’s Winter Solstice when the days were just beginning to get longer after the dark days of winter. Conversely, the Feast of the Birth of John the Baptist is given as – I think you probably already guessed it – June 24th: the day after the Summer Solstice when the days are beginning to get shorter: “I must decrease so that He might increase.”
But all of this manipulation wasn’t done just to be cleaver. It has significance for all of us living right now. In the first Scripture reading from Malachi we hear those familiar words which are part of Handle’s Messiah, “Yes, He is coming … but who can endure the day of his coming … He is like a refiner’s fire.”(Malachi 3:2ff)
We don’t get to stay at the stable holding a cute little Jesus. Jesus comes to bring us out of darkness into His wonderful Light and His next line comes to us when he appears to His Disciples after the Resurrection and tells them, “What are you doing hiding in this locked upper room? You’ve heard what I told you before: “Go out and proclaim that redemption has come.” And He breathes on them the Power of the Holy Spirit. (John 20:21ff)
And our tongues – just like Zachariah’s – are loosened and we can tell of the marvelous wonders of this God who saves us. It’s good for us to remember that the Church celebrated the Resurrection of the Lord years before the date of Christmas was established. So, in some sense it is probably more important for us to understand the meaning of Jesus’ Resurrection than for us to stay at Bethlehem even as wonderful as this might seem to us.
The ending words from the Malachi reading are key: “… the Lord comes … to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” (Malachi 3:24)
This is what Christmas is supposed to be al about! Changing people who are in darkness into people of the Light. Amen?