9 December 2018

posted 7 Dec 2018, 21:13 by C S Paul

9 December 2018

Scripture reading and Sermon

Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Birth of John the Baptist 

Reading from the Scripture for this Sunday

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 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 the Sunday of the birth of St. John the Baptist

by Jose Kurian Puliyeril

Reading: From the Gospel according to St. Luke 1: 57 – 80

The Holy Church is celebrating the Birthday of St. John the Baptist, who was born to Priest Zechariah and Elizabeth, at their old age as a gift and a special blessing, and mercy of God Almighty. St. John, the so-called forerunner of our Lord and Savior was blessed to identify and enjoy the presence of our Lord and His blessed mother, when our Lord as well as St. John were in the wombs of their mothers. We cannot find such a rare blessing in the entire Holy Bible or in the history. The birth of St. John was a real mystery and a miracle When Elizabeth gave birth to her son, her neighbors as well as her relatives realized the greatness in the birth as a great mercy of God Almighty. So they praised God. (Vs 58) The neighbors and relatives might have witnessed the events followed by the visit of St. Mary to the residence of Elizabeth. That might be the reason for them to react in the positive way and manner. If we were in their place what would have been our response? We might release certain funny comments instead of praising God.

In our lives how many blessings and mercies do we enjoy from God Almighty? Do we recognize them all as gifts and mercies of the loving God or are we counting them as the net results of our hard work? Let us take a decision that we would be ever and ever grateful to God Almighty for His mercies, blessings, care and love, in the future. On the 8th day the neighbors and the relatives reached there and named the infant as John. They did so, though against their tradition and practice, honoring God Almighty's will. (Refer St. Luke 1:13) The get together of relatives and neighbors during the baptism, and other sacraments and events in our homes are based on this Biblical incident. Those who assembled at the house are representatives of the Holy Church. We should not forget the truth that the Holy church is only empowered to administer the Sacraments.

In verse 64 we read " And his mouth was opened immediately and his tongue loosed, and he spoke and praised God". St. Luke describes that all these sayings were noised abroad, throughout all the hillside of Judea. (Vs. 65) But all those who were near Zechariah got fear. In verse 66 we read, "And all they that heard these laid them in their hearts." This is how St. Mary had stored so many incidents and events in her heart as mentioned in St. Luke 2: 19. The relatives and neighbors of Zechariah and Elizabeth exclaimed, "What manner of child shall be this". From the very moment they might have heard the conversations between Elizabeth and St. Mary, they might have been waiting with eagerness to see the new born. 

Their surprise might have doubled when they heard the name of the infant. See the next sentence in our reading. "And the hand of God was with him". The Holy Spirit in us is always giving us instructions and guidance to proceed in God's ways. And at seldom occasions only we do give priority for God's will and wish. Let us try to give top priority to God and His wish in every deal and everyday. In verse 67 we listen that Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and as a result he was able to deliver the prophecy. 

First he spoke about the arrival of our Lord Jesus. In verse 67 we read that our Lord's arrival was to "perform the mercy promised to our fathers." In Leviticus 26: 42 we could see to which fathers God had made the covenant. There we read, "I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac and also my covenant with Abraham". Priest Zechariah is claiming that our Lord Jesus incarnated to the holy covenant and the oath made with our father Abraham (verse 72) In Genesis 12: 3 and as well as in Hebrews 6:13 we could see the details of the oath made with Abraham, the father of all the faithful.

The rest of the prophecy of Priest Zechariah is very significant for us also. We have to take them seriously to enrich our spirituality. He advises everyone to serve the one who deliver us from all the enemies without fear. (see verse 74) In Romans 6: 18, St. Paul exhorts us about the freedom from sin and the one who makes us free. In Hebrews 9:14 we are cautioned likewise. We read "How much more shall the blood of Jesus who through the eternal spirit offered himself without spot to God purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God".

We might doubt how to serve God without fear. The answer is given by our Lord Jesus Himself in St. John 12: 26. "If any man serve me, let him follow me." Now let us think whether we could serve Him better Let us follow Him by obeying Him and accepting Him as our Lord, God and Savior.y the intercession of St. John the Baptist be a fort of protection for all of us especially our infants. May God bless us all.