8th Simbang Gabi: Christmas–The Graciousness of God

Painting by Sr. Bambi Flores, MPS

Welcome to the 8th Simbang Gabi. We are now into the 8th day of our Christmas academy.  I hope our reflections in this Christmas academy continue to deepen your understanding of the meaning of the incarnation of Jesus–the original event of Christmas.

In our readings today, we hear about the birth of John the Baptist. In the first reading, the prophet Malachi speak about one who will go before the coming  day of the LORD.  We take these words to point to John’s role as a precursor for the coming Lord Jesus.  The psalm also describes a relationship similar to the relationship that John had with GOD, that of being obedient to GOD and desiring to learn the ways of the LORD so that he could prepare the pathway for the LORD.

In the gospel today, we heard of the birth of John. There was a bit of a wrangle between Elizabeth the mother and the neighbors and relatives about the name of the boy.  The neighbors and relatives wanted the name Zechariah following tradition to name first born son after his father. But Elizabeth and Zechariah wanted him to name John.  The name John did not come from the parents but from God. Like Jesus (Mt 1:21), the name of John was given to his parents by the angel Gabriel before he was born (Lk 1:13).

The name John, in Hebrew “Yehohanan” or “Yohanan” means “Yahweh is gracious.” God was gracious to both Elizabeth and Zechariah who gave them a child even in their advanced age and Elizabeth’s barrenness.

We have also experienced a lot of barrenness on many levels in our lives. We have experienced many failures and lots of fruitlessness and desolation in our lives.  Yet it is in these desolate realities where God is being born within us. Just as God made possible the birth of John the Baptist despite his barren mother, our desolation and barrenness are less as a curse than as a preparation for something special.

Indeed, John will become a symbol of the merciful kindness of God, preparing the people for the coming of plentiful salvation in Jesus Christ. From birth until his martyr’s death at the hands of the tyrannical Herod, John’s life will be fully dependent on the grace of God.

John’s life shows us a life that is fully dependent on the graciousness of God.  This is living life to the fullest. John showed us that living life to the fullest is to fully give our lives to others and to God.  The more we decrease our attention and attachment on ourselves and increase our attention and focus on others and God, the more we live free and fulfilling lives.

Like John, our lives is a preparation to the plentiful redemption in Christ. Like John we are all precursors for the coming greater glory of Christ that will give life to others.

This Christmas, above all, like John, may we truly experienced and remember the graciousness of God despite all the failures and frustrations in our lives this year.