1 John 2:29-3:6; Psalm 98:1,3CD-4, 5-6; John 1:29-34
Today is the 9th day of Christmas! We are still very much in the Christmas season, yet the stores have taken Christmas off the shelves and reduced the merchandise greatly – Valentine and, in some stores, even Easter decorations hang. The truth is that the commercial part of Christmas is over yet the church calendar shows that we are still waiting for those three wise men to arrive at the stable. My nativity scenes still shine brightly – we are still waiting. In the traditional Christmas carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas, nine ladies are dancing (in additional to the eight maids-a-milking and all those birds!). Indeed, it is time for continued celebration; we should be dancing and thrilled with our Christmas gift, the baby Jesus. However, we must also think about the implications of that gift – are we going to keep it but stuff it away someplace and then on rare occasions we will “take it out” to ask for favors? Are we not even going to accept the gift and, instead, just leave it under the tree? Or, are we going to fully embrace it – basking in its bright light? Will we dance and sing and revel in our good fortune?
Our first reading focuses on us as children of God and the love of our Father that is so generously bestowed upon us. We are encouraged to act with righteousness and avoid sin. That sounds so simple on paper but actually living that is another story. We do not know “what we shall be” but know that we should have faith and have this hope. The last lines are somewhat of an enigma to me since we all do sin to some degree or another. Yet, “No one who remains in him sins; no one who sins has seen him or known him.” Will we never know Him? Rather, if we ask for forgiveness of our sins and strive for righteous actions, will we find that purity?
The responsorial psalm affirms that we “have seen the saving power of God.” I love the song (of course, a song) from Jeremy Camp that says:
And I have seen the healing hand of God
Reaching out and mending broken hearts
Taste and see the fullness of His peace
And hold on to what's being held out
The healing hand of God.
The gospel reading focuses on John the Baptist as do many at this time of year. I have always been curious about the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus. How did John not know Jesus if Mary knew John’s mother Elizabeth? I did some searching and found some wonderful connections – I can easily accept that differences in ages, distances and the difficulty in traveling then, in addition to John’s living in the desert contributed to lack of contact between the two. What I discovered was some interesting comparison of terms throughout the Bible. For instance:
John was the light; Jesus is the sun.
The Baptist was the voice, Christ was the Word.
One is the friend; the other is the spouse.
A consistent theme is John’s proclamation that he must increase and I must decrease. I loved that one source pointed out that the birth of St. John is celebrated on June 24th, in the moment of the summer solstice. From that point onward, daylight begins to reduce. On the other hand, the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ is celebrated on December 25th, during the winter solstice. From that point onward, daylight begins to grow, to get longer. He does indeed increase as John decreases and those around realize that John is not the Messiah but rather the messenger. So must we decrease in ourselves as we allow Jesus to increase in our lives and all we do. Once we do, we can truly dance!!
By Nancy Shirley