Christmas is saying “NO”

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Fourth Week of Advent, Eighth Day of Christmas Novena, 23 December 2022
Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24     ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>     Luke 1:57-66

We are now in the penultimate day to Christmas and Luke is getting more dramatic in his narration of the events leading to the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. The scene is still in Judea, the house of Zechariah when Elizabeth finally gave birth to John the Baptist, the Lord’s precursor.

Everyone rejoiced and something so wonderful happened during the child’s circumcision when he was named.

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.”

Luke 1:57-60

I love that part when Elizabeth suddenly spoke to her relatives and neighbors on the name to be given to her son, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.”

Beautiful! Another example of Luke’s artistry.

Recall that when Elizabeth was put into the scene by Luke last Monday after the annunciation of John’s birth to his father Zechariah, she was portrayed as soft and somewhat passive. In fact, after conceiving John, Luke tells us Elizabeth went into seclusion for five months to reflect on God’s wondrous deed to her, not to mention the “embarrassment” of an 80-year old woman getting pregnant. That was when Mary visited her.

Elizabeth was all praises to her younger cousin Mary and of course, to God. At the Visitation, we got a picture of Elizabeth as a kind and genteel woman until today when she suddenly roared like a lioness, standing her ground to protect her child! From being passive, Elizabeth is now portrayed as a very active person, a woman in the fullest sense, standing her ground on what she firmly believes and thinks best for her and her child when she adamantly declared to everyone “No. He will be called John.”

One of the things my mother had told me is learning to say NO especially if it has something do with sin and evil, something very bad, including expensive things. Later in life I realized the great value she had instilled in me of knowing to say NO, even of standing by it.

Many times in our modern time, we just go on with the flow, approving without even thinking whatever the world tells us as seen in many commercials and logo like “Just do it!” and “Obey your thirst”. It is what Pope emeritus Benedict XVI called as “dictatorship of relativism” – no more absolutes like God, almost everything is allowed from morals to fashion that many have lost any sense of truth and good, of beauty and decency and propriety.

Elizabeth showed us in the naming of her son something very vital in Christ’s coming: she herself was the finest example and model for John the Baptist in his mission of preparing the way of the Lord, of cleansing the world of its sins and excesses that nobody seemed to fight anymore. In the first reading, Malachi prophesied how the precursor would be like a “refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye” (Mal.3:2) cleansing the people, preparing their hearts to receive Jesus Christ.

Any cleansing or conversion or repentance begins first with a decisive NO to sin and evil, to useless traditions and beliefs that forget God and his people.

See how Luke brought out this strong character of Elizabeth perfectly in the timing of the circumcision and naming of her child – right at the moment of the “cutting” of the foreskin, Elizabeth intervened and insisted on God’s plan that was contrary to everyone’s thought and belief. It was Elizabeth who “cut off” or broke off John and her self from the traditions and old rituals of the people at that time. She was a trailblazer in fact, a trait John must have acquired from her from the very start of his life.

Most beautiful scene here is when Elizabeth stood her ground to the point that her relatives and neighbors protested to her naming her child John. She really meant her NO despite their protests that they asked Zechariah to write on a tablet the child’s name.

And everyone was amazed, even shocked, when Zechariah who was deaf-mute at that time, affirmed that “John is his name” (Lk.1:63), affirming Elizabeth’s choice of name.

Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to their heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.

Luke 1:64-66

Imagine how those things happened simply because Elizabeth said “NO”.

John eventually would offer his life for saying NO to Herod’s taking of his brother’s wife, Herodias.

Lastly, our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died on the Cross for saying NO too to the ways of the world, to sin and to evil. In a sense, he came to teach us to say NO to the world so that we may experience his love and mercy, freedom and peace and prosperity. Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ,
as your birthday fast approaches,
give me the courage to say NO like
Elizabeth, the mother of your precursor,
John the Baptist;
teach me to say NO to traditions and rituals
without meaning, full of pomp and pageantry,
most especially of our very selves and ego,
empty of meaning, and worst, disregard you 
who are among the poor and suffering;
let us say NO to death and injustice;
NO to reducing life into mere lifestyle,
NO to divorce,
NO to abortion,
NO to same sex union,
NO to deviation from you,
our Lord and God.
Amen.

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