Daily Reflection
June 24th, 1999
Larry Gillick, S.J.
The Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
Isaiah 49:1-6
Acts 13:22-26
Luke 1:57-66, 80

We celebrate today, "Little Christmas," the birthday of the one who proceeded Jesus in birth by six months and preceded Jesus by proclaiming His coming.

We hear in today's first reading from the liturgy, a prophesy of one who boasts that the Lord gave him his name before he was born.  The liturgy uses this passage from Isaiah to render our ears and hearts ready to consider the hiddenness and yet the importance of John as servant.  John is to be the "light to the nations that My salvation may reach to the ends of the earth."

In our second reading for this major feast, we hear Paul telling of the great work of John, "John heralded the coming of Jesus by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel."

In the earliest days of the new Christianity, there was a question about whether John or Jesus was the savior, the messiah.  All four gospels make it clear that John was the one running before Jesus announcing His advent.  "What you suppose me to be, I am not.  Rather, look for the One Who comes after me.  I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals on his feet.  We hear this often during our Advent season and the Church presents this important reality to us at the beginning of summer, which in our part of the world is the beginning of our growing, our fruitful time.  We are reminded again, as were Paul's listeners, "It was to us that this was sent forth."

The Gospel is a birth narrative with a twist. The child is given a name not according to family tradition. The father had been struck dumb at John's conception, and now he writes the name of the child and his tongue is freed to speak "in praise of God."  The news spread about this event and they wondered, "What will this child be"?

This feast celebrates God's plan and God's ways of working out the great plan of our salvation through the natural ways of the human.  There is birth and there is mystery.  There is greatness, but revealed through the little.  There is the importance of time, but all done in God's good slow time.  John grew up and lived in the wilderness; Jesus grew up in the closed-life of Nazareth.  When it was time the growing was over and the fruitfulness of salvation appeared and was offered.

Our lives are hidden and yet His light shines through us.  We are significant if not so important in this world.  "Sign-makers" we point beyond, ahead and inside as well.  As signs, like John, we announce, alert and indicate that there is a greater one Who is revealing Himself as the One Who comes, if we but wait for God's good time.

John's birth is a celebration of the dignity of both those who went before Jesus and those of us who are born to follow.  All creation, now coming to birth again, assume this sacramental dignity of being signs of the One Who gives birth, life, growth and resurrection, if we but wait our turn to make His pathway straight.  Merry "Little Christmas."

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