Intention: We pray for a joyous and transforming Christmastime for our world, one that fills it with peace, justice, and good will toward all.
Today’s Gospel | Luke 1:57-66
When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be? For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.”
Reflection for the Fourth Wednesday of Advent
Expecting the birth of a child demands much planning. Among the many things that must be done, there is one task that should give great pause to those charged with its accomplishment: the choosing of a name. Consider its significance. For all of our lives, our names will be how we are known to all, including to ourselves. Ironically, our names are given to us before it is possible to really know who we are. Many times, newborns are named after those we do know, persons whose lives somehow provide a connection to the family history or an ideal to which their namesakes can aspire. So, our identities often are established with the hope that they will fulfill a larger identity, one that can infuse our lives with greater meaning and purpose.
The story of the naming of John the Baptist illustrates this, emphasizing the bond between the name he would be given and the life he would lead. It also suggests to us something about what this could mean for us. While John the Baptist’s divine call and destiny were unique, the fact that they had been given to him was not. We all have waiting for us the work by which God invites us to be known. All of us are called to discover to what part of the salvation story we were born to belong. “What, then, will this child be?” is a question that should do more than inspire wistful speculation. It should also lead to profound discovery.
Cleric and author Frederic Farrar wrote, “If we would gaze on the star of our destiny, we must look for it in our hearts.” As children of God, our identity does not come from without, but is rooted within. Sacredness and dignity are our birthright and at the core of our identity, giving our lives their undeniable meaning and purpose. It is one of those inescapable truths that are at the heart of the human adventure. In this Advent, we are called to look inward and to remember, or perhaps know for the first time, that God’s spark glows within us, making us who we are and lighting our path toward what we were born to do.
Eternal Father, you sent John to prepare Jesus’ way in this world. As we prepare to celebrate the miracle of Christmas, fill us with the grace to bear witness to your Son. May our lives be marked by our zeal in proclaiming the good news that you are with us, and that our salvation has come to us in the birth of our Lord. Lead us to be instruments of your peace and righteousness, working to build your Kingdom and leading one another to know you presence and to welcome your Son into our hearts forever. We ask this of you who lives and reigns with your Son and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.