Dear sisters and brothers, today our Holy Church commemorates birthday of Saint John, the Baptist. At the beginning of this sermon let us pray and read how God foretold the nativity of this Saint.
The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
What I personally find interesting when I think about Christian commemoration of the saints is that we most often commemorate the day of one saint`s death. Only if a Saint was a very big and special saint we celebrate his or her birthday. We celebrate Jesus` birthday, birthday of St. Mary, mother of God and birthday of St. John. St. Mary`s birthday is commemorated as she was the one participating God`s plan for the Son of Man to be born. On the other hand Saint John was the one participating in God`s plan for the Son of God to start His heavenly mission. Before meeting John and before being baptized Jesus didn`t start his heavenly work. Two key roles of Jesus were played with the help of Mary and John. And so, the Church commemorates two more birthdays along with the Birthday of Our Lord Jesus.
The same thing happens in life of every Christian. When we are born by our mothers we are born for this world. We are material sons and daughters of human. But what happens when we are baptized. After being baptized we start our spiritual journey through this life. We start something that should have been called – heavenly path. This path is not easy. We may have daily struggling with many things and temptations. Laziness, anger, stress, lack of time, negative thoughts, excessive sexual desire and imagination, bad mood, injustice that we see every day… all those can be factors that would lead us away from God over and over again. But we should always at least do our sign of cross and say “God, I know you are here, glory be to you always“. Doing cross sign is what reminds us on our baptism. Since we were baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Doing our sign of cross is like we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. We remember that we are on our way of passion as Jesus was. And we all have our own cross.
Today we will talk mostly about the nativity of Saint John but as I said at the beginning of this text, it is interesting that not many nativities are commemorated by the Church. What we do commemorate is – death! This looks scary, right? Well, it might only look that way but it is interesting to make correlation between death and baptism. When we die we are buried under ground. There is a symbolic burying under the water when a person is baptized. Baptism is also symbol of death. But when we, Christians, say the word “death“ we should refer it to being dead for the sin and for the evil acts. We are washed, spiritually purified, justified by faith, saved by grace and dead for the sin and should be jumping out of the water of baptism as a new man. Born for the life, born for the love and born for God. Often when I think about saints, commemorations and Christian holidays I try to think how we can use and apply what we learn from these commemorations in our everyday life. When I think about the water of baptism I like to think that our blanket on our bed may be also a good reminder of who we are in Christ. When we lay in bed to sleep it is like laying in the tomb of baptism. When you wake up in the morning and you remove your cover and stand up remember that Jesus raised you up for this day. Christianity is full of beautiful symbols everywhere. Be thankful and pray or at least do your sign of the cross. Do it with faith and love. See how blessed you are. If you have time read your Bible. Make a habit to practice it every day. Here I would like to share a part from the Bible to see more about Nativity of John the Baptist.
The Birth of John the Baptist
57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”
61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”
62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit[d]; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.
As we are remembering the importance of the baptism, and meditate on what we have read from the Bible. As we practice gratefulness for all the blessings may we pray today to Saint John and give glory to our God for ever. Amen.