God is gracious

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe, 23 December 2019

Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Luke 1:57-66

Facade of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Eim Karen where the precursor of the Lord was born. Not to be confused with Church of the Visitation at its other side in the same town. Photo by author, May 2019

Two days before Christmas, St. Luke brings us back to the continuation of his first story about Christmas: the birth of John the Baptizer.

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.

Luke 1:57-64
Site where St. John the Baptist is believed to have been born. Photo by author, May 2019.

Where is God leading me?

Christmas is almost here. And it is not yet too late in these last two days of Advent that we try some “last ditch efforts” to spiritually prepare ourselves for this joyous season by asking just one question following the story of John’s birth:

“Where is God leading me?”

See the artistry of St. Luke, at how he began his Christmas story with the annunciation of the birth of John to his father Zechariah while incensing the Holy of Holies of the Temple in Jerusalem.

He doubted the good news and he was silenced by the angel until John was born.

Today, after three days, or nine months to be exact, St. Luke brings him back into the scene set free from his punishment. Zechariah was able to speak again when he concurred with his wife’s desire to name their child John by writing it on a tablet.

The name John in Hebrew is Jehohan which means “God is gracious” or “graciousness of God”.

Advent and Christmas are a story of how each one of us is a John, a graciousness of God, of us people so blessed by God to fulfill his promise of salvation in Jesus Christ.

But do we realize the many blessings we have from God?

The other night I saw an interesting post on Facebook from one of my former students in high school. It was from a woman sharing her experience while waiting in line at an ATM that has now gone viral.

She claimed that at first, she felt so bad at what was taking three people so long at the ATM to withdraw their cash. But when she got nearer, she overheard their conversations.

It turned out the three were given a bonus of Php 2000.00 each by their boss.

And they were extremely happy, so thankful, telling each other how they would prepare spaghetti and fruit salad on Christmas eve!

And the woman who posted the photo realized how those simple folks were so thankful for Php 2000.00 bonus when she and others like her who get more than that amount still complain?!

Very nice reflection!

Advent gives us four weeks to remember God’s graciousness to us this past year. The bountiful blessings we have had which we take for granted. Worst, we even complain with!

Altar of the Church of St. John the Baptist, Israel. When we came there last May, it was being closed for major restorations expected to last for years.

Whenever we see and count our blessings, do we ever thank God and ask him too where he is leading us to?

Zechariah was already old, had a great chance of incensing the Holy of Holies at their most important feast, doubted God’s grace but eventually still received it after nine months of silence.

By his action, Zechariah had shown how he had grown in faith during those nine months of “forced silence”, of how he had start to believe again in God, hope again, and practically live life anew!

Tremendous graces in just nine months being silent. Imagine that.

And we can have more grace today until tomorrow being silent, reflecting, praying as we count one by one the many blessings we have received this year.

Call it ageing gracefully, a grace in itself wherein as we grow old, we continue to find direction in life, we continue to find God leading us to him, for a specific mission to fulfill.

Dome of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Israel. Photo by author, May 2019.

Yesterday we have reflected that we are like St. Joseph entrusted with a special mission from God. That God “needs” us to bring Jesus, to care and protect Jesus here in the world. Each of us has a special part or role to play in God’s Divine plan in Jesus Christ.

Never lose hope in life. No matter what is our situation in life, God continues to work in us, working for us, inviting us to work with him.

It is interesting to know that the name Zechariah means “God remembers” while Elizabeth means “God has promised or vowed”.

If their names are brought together, we can see the complete picture why St. Luke started his Christmas story with Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John and not with Jospeh or Mary right away: they all mean “God is gracious because he remembers his promise always”!

May we always trust God and ask him where he is leading each of us this Christmas no matter what is our status in life. Amen.

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