Generally, everyone likes to celebrate their birthday, the day we celebrate breathing for the first time, becoming part of a family. On our birthdays, we may look forward to receiving gifts, having a birthday cake, making a wish and spending time with family and friends. It is a special time to set aside a few moments of prayer and give thanks to God for the precious gift of life. And then there comes a day, when we aren’t quite so enthusiastic about celebrating the passing of years because it reminds us that our lives are marked, limited, as the numbers grow ever larger. There is something to be said about reflecting on how we live each day than remembering the day and number of years.
Similarly, the church remembers several nativities, the nativity of Jesus, John the Baptist and Mary, our mother. Today we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist. He was the great prophet and herald of Jesus the Messiah. He prepared the way of the Lord and revealed Jesus to others as both the Messiah and Lamb of God. He called people to repentance, to change their lives and hearts in preparation for the one who would change all lives, and all hearts. This celebration dates back to the 4th Century now observed on June 24th in keeping with Luke 1: 36, noting that Elizabeth was six months pregnant at the time of the Annunciation of the Lord.
In addition, tradition holds that John was born after the summer solstice as the days begin to decrease. Tradition also holds that Jesus is born after the winter solstice, shortest day of the year, as the daylight is increasing. Though it is interesting to note the church’s numerical computations for these nativities; it is more important to reflect on John the Baptist’s role, “preparing the way of the Lord, making straight his paths.” The Lord of all life has come once and for all, saved humanity, but entrusted building the kingdom of God here on earth to us. In our own way, how are we preparing the way of the Lord? How are we growing in Christian charity for our brothers and sisters? What do we find challenging in living out the command “love one another?” How do we live in a world that struggles with speaking the truth, struggles with being peaceable, struggles with the plight of so many people? May God’s Spirit be born in us anew each day as we listen to John’s message and follow Jesus.
Summer Blessings, Father Larry Hendel