SERMON OF THE WEEK
December 4, 2011
Next Sunday we celebrate the birth of St. John the Baptist. Gospel reading is from Luke 1:57-66.
Gospel Reading: (Luke 1:57-66)
Birth of John the Baptist
57 Now Elizabeth full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. 58 When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her.
59 So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. 60 His mother answered and said, No; he shall be called John.
61 But they said to her, There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name. 62 So they made signs to his father what he would have him called.
63 And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, His name is John. So they all marveled. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God. 65 Then fear came on all who dwelt around them; and all these sayings were discussed throughout all the hill country of Judea. 66 And all those who heard them kept them in their hearts, saying, What kind of child will this be? And the hand of the Lord was with him.
Birth of John the Baptist
John was the son of Zachariah and Elizabeth. Angel Gabriel announced his birth to his father Zachariah and gave him the name John, which means "God is gracious." While still in his mothers womb, he recognized the presence of Jesus by leaping when Mary visited Elizabeth. The angel Gabriel had previously promised Zachariah that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit while in the womb.
John left his parents to live the life of a prophet in the desert. He preached in the desert dressed like an Old Testament prophet, wearing a garment made from camel-skin and eating locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed the Kingdom of God and the coming judgment, and inviting people to accept baptism as a sign of their repentance. His ministry resembled that of the prophets. His message disturbed many of the powerful people of the time. His message has been spread throughout the region of Galilee that made the way for many of them go to him and began to confess their sins and accepted baptism from him.
John showed humility when he did not want attention on himself but directed people to Jesus. Many of them began to wonder if John was the Messiah. He assured them that he was not. He proclaimed that his ministry was preparing for the coming to the Messiah. When Jesus came to John for baptism, John said, "He is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." Jesus had begun his public ministry after receiving baptism from John. After giving the baptism to Jesus, John turned his attention to Jesus as he declared, "He must increase and I must decrease." John condemned the marriage of Herod to his brother's wife Herodias. This is to tell us that everything allowed by the law is not necessarily morally right. Herod had John arrested and put in prison. John stood up for the truth but unfortunately had to pay a high price. His courage to uphold the dignity of marriage and condemning the adulterous relationship of Herod to Herodias resulted in his death by beheading in prison by orders from King Herod.
Jesus has told of John, "John is more than a prophet. No man born of woman was greater than John." He is the messenger who came to prepare the way for our Lord. It meant that John the Baptist represented the climax of a long tradition of prophets. John was the climax of the law. He lived in the wilderness, a life without any worldly luxury. He had renounced the joys of family life and completely dedicated to the mission of preaching by calling upon people to the observance of God's laws.
Rev. Dr. V Kurian Thomas, Valiyaparambil