7 December 2014

posted 4 Dec 2014, 07:47 by C S Paul
7 December 2014

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Birth of John the Baptist

Gospel Reading for this Sunday - St. Luke 1:57-80
New King James Version (NKJV)

Birth of John the Baptist

57 Now Elizabeth’s 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.

Circumcision of John the Baptist

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.

Zacharias’ Prophecy

67 Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:

68 “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited and redeemed His people,

69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of His servant David,

70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets,
Who have been since the world began,

71 That we should be saved from our enemies
And from the hand of all who hate us,

72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers
And to remember His holy covenant,

73 The oath which He swore to our father Abraham:

74 To grant us that we,
Being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,

75 In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.

76 “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,

77 To give knowledge of salvation to His people
By the remission of their sins,

78 Through the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Dayspring from on high has visited[a] us;

79 To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

80 So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.

Devotional Thoughts for Children's Sunday

by Rev. Fr. George Mathew

Glory and honor to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

This Sunday is known as "Children's Day" as we recall the birth of the last major prophet of Old Testament times, St. John the Baptist. The readings for this week remind us of the importance of children, how precious they are, and what a great responsibility we have!

There are many important themes in this Gospel passage. Let me outline four brief ideas we should keep in mind during this week.

1. The birth of St. John the Baptist represents the fulfillment of prophecy – God keeps His promises to us and hears our prayers. We know the story of how Zacharias and Elizabeth were both greatly aged and without children. Their sincere prayer was that God would provide them a child. God did finally answer their prayer. God is faithful to us even when we are not faithful to Him – that is the sign of true love.

Do we possess that kind of love, where we can love each other regardless of what is said or done to us? It takes a great deal of humility and a heart of real love. We also have to remember that our prayers are always heard by God if sincere, and will be answered in His time and according to His will. St. John Chrysostom said, “Even if God does not immediately give us what we ask, even if many people try to put us off our prayers, let us still go on praying.”

2. Upon naming his son “John,” Zacharias’ tongue was loosed. When told by the angel that he and Elizabeth would have a son, he was bewildered and confused. In a sense, his faith waivered, if not only for a moment, and as a sign to himself and those around him, he was made mute until all had come to pass. Similarly, when we go through trials and tribulations in life, we have to have the patience and faith of Job, who endured all that he could and lost all that he had, and yet remained faithful to God.

Do we have that kind of patience and faith? Because Job was faithful, he was blessed with much more than he had originally. We too have to go through the desert of despair before we can enter the land of milk and honey.

3. In verses, 67-79, we see an expression of the joy of Zacharias in what is commonly called the “Benedictus.” In it, he offers praise to God for His grace and redemptive acts. He also speaks of the role his son, John, will play in preparing the way of the Messiah “to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of God…to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.” (St. Lk. 1:77-78).

Do we offer proper praise and thanksgiving to God when we experience His grace and blessings? We receive a shower of blessings each and every moment in life. Every day should be a day of thanksgiving.

4. “What kind of child will this be?” (St. Lk. 1:66) Any parent is filled with wonder and awe at the time of the birth of a child. There are tears of joy and also fear when thinking about the great responsibilities of rearing a child, especially in our current time.

Many of us dream that our children will become great physicians and engineers; how many dream of our children becoming faithful, repentant Christians? We find time to take our children to sports’ practices, music recitals, parties, and extra classes, but on Sunday mornings, we find it difficult to take them to the church on time. We find it difficult to teach them our faith and services. We find it difficult to encourage them to be orthodox (maybe because we do not ourselves understand what this term means). What kind of children and youth are we rearing?

Our world today has become less Christ-centered and more world-centered. Our world today does not need God or Christ. It is even more critical that we provide our children with a proper mindset from even an early age. We have to teach our children about God, the Holy Church, Holy Tradition, and our moral and spiritual responsibilities.

“We are here to be changed by the Church, not to change the Church,” said Very Rev. Michael Dahulich, Dean of St. Tikhon’s Seminary, during seminary orientation. Is that true for each of us? If it were so, would there be so much bickering and anguish at our General Body Meetings or in committee meetings? Would there be a need to cut our services?

We are here to be changed by the church – we are here to be transformed and divinized, realizing the great potential that exists within us. It all begins with a heart of confession and repentant tears. Are we ready for such a transformation? During this time of lent, we have a great opportunity for such a transformation.

May the joy and peace of that first Christmas be with us and transform us into true Orthodox children of God.