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Nativity Of St. John The Baptist

Nativity of St. John the Baptist

The Church of Jesus Christ generally honors the saints on the day of their eternal generation, their eternal birth, when they leave this earth and enter the eternal dimension. Besides the Birthgiver God, there is but one whom the Church glorifies on the day of his earthly birth and that is St. John the Baptist, the cousin of the Lord. And it is not because he is related in flesh to Christ, but simply due to the testimony of the Lord, "I solemnly assure you history has not known a man born of woman greater than John the Baptist" Matthew 11: 11. There is even a feast honoring his conception and others recalling the finding and recovery of his relics.

Let us think carefully now of this sacred event and unite ourselves in spirit and soul with the astounding events we celebrate in feast today.

The old woman sat in the courtyard and watched as the sunrise painted brilliant hues and colors across the eastern sky. Her husband still tossed and snored in the bed they had shared for more than fifty years, but sleep eluded her. Yet it was not her husband's restlessness that kept her awake. The truth is she welcomed his snoring; it was the only sound he was now still capable of making and in the night it reassured her that he was still beside her and alive.

No, her sleeplessness derived from a different source, the deep reservoir of joy and life that stirred within her. After all the years, after all the prayers, after all the anguish and frustration and near despair, at long last, a child filled her womb! And highly unusual in her case, she knew it would be a son!

Elizabeth slept little since the day Zachary, her husband had come home mute from the temple after serving there by lot as a priest and laboriously wrote out the story of the angel's announcement. She had never been so glad that her husband taught her to read! Certainly, she was blessed by the knowledge of the law, but how much more blessed by this revelation! Who would have thought although her patience would be trying, for year upon year, even decade following decade, but she was now to become the chosen instrument in which the Announcer of salvation was to come into the world! Of all women since Eve, how blessed she was because of her faith and patience!

She went to him immediately and their love reminded her of the passion and glory of their early years together. The very next day, she knew in a way only a woman can know, that she was, indeed, with child. And from that moment on, she had been reluctant to sleep, not wanting to miss even a minute of the miracle she was living.

As the morning light grew stronger, she looked down at her hands. She ran her fingers in her lap and these seemingly ancient hands, spotted with age and crinkled, like old parchment, were witnesses she could not deny in truth; she was an old, old woman, far beyond the time of bearing children. But amazingly, she does not feel old, not any longer, as if a new spirit of adrenaline filled her veins. What a visit by an angel from heaven will do, she thought to herself! A new vibrancy coursed through her veins, her steps seem lighter, her joints more flexible. How wonderful she felt just thinking about what was happened. Now, like a young woman again she was literally regenerated. She daydreamed about the future, what would her son look like, what strengths would he inherit from her and his father? What would he actually do with his life?

Zachary had been adamant, the boy's name was to be John and she did not understand why as there were no Johns in the family lineage. But it was Zachary after all, who had this encounter with the angelic visitor so who was she to question? And if truth be told, she did not care about the name as much as she wanted him to be whole and healthy and happy and lead a long and prosperous life in the sight of the Lord.

Such was her joy that she began, as never before, to sing the ancient tunes of David's songs, "Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So will I bless you as long as I live" Psalms 63: 3; "0 God you have taught me from my youth, and until the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds; and when I am old and gray, 0 God forsake me not, until I proclaim your strength to every generation that is to come" Psalms 72: 17, 18.

Soon enough she would hear his voice; if he was to be the precursor of the Messiah, would they live to see salvation enter the world? Who would have thought all the years of embarrassment would have led to such enriching reward? How wondrous are the mysteries of God in our lives! How so deprived is the pompous mind of man who attempts to figure them out! She knew it would not be her John as Zachary was very clear to point that out. Obviously enough if John was to be his announcer and his introduction to the world, the Messiah was not far off.

Finally, the robust baby is born and amid the joy and confusion of the time, after Zachary informs family and relatives of his name, his speech is restored him and a rich investment of prayer, sacrifice and endurance is called for.

In today's feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist, we are taught from heaven above that God's ways are not man's ways and that even from the most abject of conditions and circumstances, our Creator God can bring about astoundingly glorious results!

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