Friday, June 24, 2011 — Week of Proper 7, Year One

The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

To read about our daily commemorations, go to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog.

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer)

EITHER the readings for the Nativity of John the Baptist, p. 998

Morning Prayer: Psalms 82, 98; Malachi 3:1-5; John 3:22-30

Evening Prayer: Psalm 80; Malachi 4:1-6; Matthew 11:2-19

OR the readings for Friday of Proper 7, p. 972

Psalms 102 (morning) 107:1-32 (evening)

1 Samuel 9:1-14

Acts 7:17-29

Luke 22:31-38

I chose the readings for the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

It is the feast of the birth of John the Baptist. Six more months of shopping until Christmas. Luke’s gospel says that Mary’s cousin Elizabeth became pregnant six months before the visit of the Angel Gabriel to Mary, so the church marks John’s birth six months before the feast of the Nativity of Jesus.

John’s father Zechariah was also visited by Gabriel, who told him of the coming birth. But Elizabeth was very old, and it was too much for Zechariah to imagine. He was struck speechless until the child was eight days old and ready to be presented for his circumcision. Then Zechariah opened his mouth to prophecy in the words we call the Benedicutus (Canticle 16 in the Prayer Book, p. 92).

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; *

he has come to his people and set them free.

…You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, *

for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,

To give his people knowledge of salvation *

by the forgiveness of their sins.

In the tender compassion of our God *

the dawn from on high shall break upon us,

To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, *

and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

With the birth of a baby, hope springs anew. What shall this little one become? What shall he see? What will she do? What changes will come? Hope springs anew. We imagine possibilities; we prophecy. We ask God’s tender compassion to come to this little one as we feel the dawn from high break upon us. Will this be a child who will help guide our feet into the way of peace? …one who will shine in dark places and bring new life into our deathly shadows?

I’m feeling Zechariah-ish this morning because last night across the world where it was already this morning, my first grandchild was born. My son lives in Taiwan. We’ve been waiting for little Laura (Wu Qin) like Elizabeth and John waited. Being that far away, there was much speechlessness. (Thank God for Skype and email.)

When her dad announced her full English name, it was a surprise. We knew what her first name would be — Laura, a derivation of my grandfather Lawrence. We didn’t know her middle name. She will be Laura Jo Ann — named also for my mother. Memories sparkle, and the heritage of rich character speaks blessings of hope upon this new mystery. May she have some of the qualities of her namesakes’.

May she also come to the wisdom of this other ancestor with whom she shares a birthdate. May she quickly come to the understanding that John expresses at the end of today’s morning reading appointed for his Office. John speaks first of joy — joy grounded in the joy of the Christ. John understands his identity. “I am not the Messiah.” (It takes us all a while, if ever, to realize we are not God; we are not the center of the universe.) Then, in joy, John says, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

However we may internalize the identities we are given by our families, circumstances and environment, we have a larger identity to put on. We are invited to put on Christ. In Christ, we become fully the beloved child God creates us so uniquely to be. May Laura Jo Ann know herself to be loved by God even better than her doting family can love her. May she hold her self lightly, and delight in God’s delight of her. May she escape some of the gravity that we humans inflict upon ourselves through pride and fear and control. May those decrease as love-incarnate increases.

May you, my child, also be called a “prophet of the Most High” to “go before the Lord to prepare his way.” To increase his salvation and forgiveness, to dwell in the tender compassion of our God, to bring light like the dawn to dispel any darkness, and to walk in your own manner into the way of peace.

Each day is a feast of Nativity. Not only are new souls being born around the globe, but we too awaken to the dawn of a new life given to us in a new day. What shall we become? What shall we see? What shall we do? Hope springs anew. May God’s compassion surround us as each of us begins today’s walk, that God may guide our feet into the way of peace this new day.

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people and set them free.

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