The birth of John can cause one to think of all that led up to the birth of Jesus. John was the forerunner of Christ, they are linked by family and through Mary’s visitation of Johns mother Elizabeth. Both Jesus conception and Johns was announced by an angel. In some ways I think that John possibly started paving the way for the Lord before he became known as the Baptist.
His father Zechariah was a priest, and at birth they were linked through a common religion. It was Elizabeth that exclaimed Blessed thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. She then said And why is it, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? Elizabeth recognized Mary’s special role in salvation.
For John to carry out his mission of preparing the way for the Lord, the conditions for change had to be right. For John to prepare for the Lord, someone had to prepare the way for John, and that would have been his parents. John’s name Yohanan means graced by God. Jesus name Emmanuel means God is with us.
Today’s Antiphon, O Adoni translates Lord. It is the word used to replace YHWH, as the Word represented by those four letters is too sacred to speak. Lord implies ruler, King, and authority. It demands respect, and it demands obedience. Today’s gospel is that where an angel appears to Joseph and commands him not to be afraid and to take Mary as is wife, who has conceived through the holy spirit, and name the child Jesus. That command was contrary to Joseph’s intent; he had planned to quietly divorce her. Joseph though was obedient to his Lord. He placed the will of God above his own desires. He was open to, and a willing participant in God’s plan for salvation. That obedience, even if at a personal cost, is perhaps one of the lessons of Saint Joseph. He learns the way to fatherhood through listening to the Father of all Creation. Both Mary and Joseph were visited by an Angel. With Mary, there is an unwavering obedience. With Joseph, his visit by an angel comes after his doubts about the Mother of God. One highlights the Immaculate Mary, the other the human Joseph. Joseph, human but open and receptive to that message from God. His is the ability to bend to Gods will, always listening and obedient at any cost.
I never did get around to writing anything on the fourth Sunday of Advent. Now might be a good time to do so. Throughout that days readings, and the readings leading up to the Sunday, and the days following it; the presence of Angels stuck with me. The angel spoke to Mary, and one also to Joseph and even to Zechariah. The season is filled with angels, but the angel was not the focus of the reading of the Visitation. That story chronicles Mary’s travels to visit Elizabeth. The story is about the visit, but the thought of angels stay with me, and then a word comes to mind. Evangelization, evangelize. Within that word Evangelize is the word, Angel. An angel is Gods messenger, or Gods message. Mary receives the message from the Angel Gabriel, and brings it to Elizabeth. Mary Evangelizes. Mary does more than bring an angels message to Elizabeth, she brings Elizabeth’s LORD. So profound is that event that Elizabeth gives homage to Mary, though cultural traditions dictate the opposite. A profound event.The other obvious aspect of this story are the pregnancies, and within those pregnancies is an angels message of life. The message is a positive one, and a joyful one. That is important to remember because though the message is uplifting, the surroundings were not. Think of that same location today, and joy is not the first word to come to mind. People are fleeing war, and violence, and hatred. Even in that environment, an angels message of joy exists, and can be carried by those who wish to embrace it. This is what leads up to Christmas, and is part of the Christmas message. From an angel to a manger. The manger and its surroundings, the manger is an oasis in a war zone though few would recognize it. In the garden of Eden man is expelled from paradise. God proceeds from a manger, to bring those same people back. Here is where Christmas begins, not where it ends.