Advent and the “hand of the Lord”

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Simbang Gabi 8, 23 December 2021
Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24   ><]]]'> + ><]]]'> + ><]]]'>   Luke 1:57-66
Photo author, chapel of Basic Education Department, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City, 19 December 2021.

One of the series of jokes I have loved following at Facebook is about that actress always fuming mad as she points her finger at a white witty cat who would always harass and insult her with all kinds of jokes and sarcasms. Last week they were at it again: the white cat laughing at the actress with the caption that says “2022 is like 2020 too”!

Maybe I am just too shallow or mababaw but it is so aliw – delightful and funny that really tickled my bones to laughter. Remember how last year at this time that experts said 2021 would just be an extension of 2020 with COVID pandemic still staying with us. Though the virus is still with us, 2021 is definitely not like 2020 because we are better off this year, more protected with the various vaccines now available. Despite the many surges that have happened this 2021, we made great progress against COVID this year that promises a better 2022 for everyone.

We can all be hopeful that 2022 will not be “2020, too!” as we are now preparing for more opening of classes and businesses next year with better vaccines and more people receiving it despite the threats of the latest variant called Omicron.

Like the people at the time of the birth and circumcision of John the Baptist, we can all feel at this time “the hand of the Lord” clearly with us. Amen!

All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.

Luke 1:66-67
Photo by author, site of John’s birthplace underneath the Church of St. John the Baptist at Ein Karem, Israel, 2019.

We are now at the penultimate day of our Christmas Novena and just before Christmas comes, Luke reconnects us with the first personality of his Nativity story, Zechariah, the husband of Elizabeth and father of John the Baptist.

Recall how he was punished by the angel by becoming mute for doubting the good news that his old and barren wife would conceive a child who would prepare the way of the Lord; now, Luke tells us how that child was born and named under unusual circumstances that had everyone in their town wondering what that child would be for clearly “the hand of the Lord was with him”.

The term “hand of the Lord” is a description of God’s presence and power in the Old Testament. It is a vivid way of presenting God “intervening” in the daily lives of his people, saving them from all kinds of dangers like the prophets. There was Elijah who was hunted by the soldiers of Jezebel and the “hand of the Lord was on Elijah” (1 Kgs. 18:46) that he was spared from their murderous plots. Then there was Ezekiel who saw “the hand of the Lord” (Ez. 37:1) upon him at the vision of a valley of dry bones coming back to life.

Sometimes, the “hand the Lord” referred to God’s judgment like when King David had sinned against God in not trusting him that he ordered a census of soldiers; it angered God and he was given the choice which punishment he preferred: natural disaster or victory by his enemies or God’s judgment. David chose the third option, saying, “Let me fall into the hand of the Lord for his mercy is great…” (1 Chr. 21:13).

Again, we find here the artistry of Luke in using the phrase “hand of the Lord” in his account of the birth and circumcision of John: he merged together the two meanings of the expression for after all, every moment of judgment is also a moment of grace, especially when seen in the life of John the Baptist who “grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Lk.1:80).

If we go back to Luke’s account of the annunciation of John’s birth, we also find the hand of God clearly at him with Elizabeth feeling vindicated with her pregnancy specially when visited by Mary.

Now, we have the building up of the drama just before the birth of Jesus with the circumcision and naming of John in the most unique manner not only because no one among their relatives have such name (Lk.1:61) but most of all when Zechariah his father wrote “John is his name” and “Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God” (Lk.1:63).

Photo by author, the Church of St. John the Baptist at Ein Karem, Israel, 2019.

What a beautiful scene of Zechariah and Elizabeth wrapped in the arms of God, basking in his tremendous blessings with the people so amazed for evidently God was present among them, working in the most special ways albeit in silence that after looking back to the past and the present moment, they wondered what more good things God has in store for the three.

The same scene happens daily in our lives as individuals, as families and communities and as a nation – of how the hand of God saving us in so many occasions like during this pandemic and recent disasters through generous people coming to our side. There lies the greatness of Zechariah and Elizabeth – through them despite their weaknesses, the hand of the Lord worked wonders not only for them but for everyone including us in this time.

In this Season of Advent about to close soon on Friday, we are invited by the family of Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John along with their neighbors to pause and remember those moments the hand of the Lord was with us so we may start meditating too where God is leading us not only this Christmas but in the coming new year 2022. Have a blessed week ahead.

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