Advent December 23

Scripture Readings: Mal 3:1-4, 23-24; Lk 1:57-66

Today we remember the birth of John the Baptist just a few months before the birth of Jesus Christ. Zechariah’s is the first annunciation story and is followed by those to Mary and to Joseph. Like Abraham and Sarah, he is told that he and Elizabeth will have a son in spite of being well beyond child-bearing age. Like Abraham he reacts with “How am I to know?”

John and Jesus are conceived quite differently. Jesus is one of only two people in the history of the world whose life did not come from human generation (the other was Adam). Yet there is a remarkable similarity that foreshadows the mission of both. In the act of conception, when unselfishly performed, one pursues the good of the other and thereby one’s own good is assured. A third party, the new life, is the greatest beneficiary. The mission of Jesus and John is to bring the Good News. This renunciation of self-seeking and regard for the good of the other—by Zechariah and the Holy Spirit—is the beginning of the Good News. Jesus and John are in glory now and a third party—humanity is the greatest beneficiary.

John’s mission is to “go before the Lord… to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.” His mission is reconciliation. Fulfilling Malachi’s prophecy, John will “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.”So too is the mission of Jesus. For both men the goal is transformation into Christlikeness and thereby to Godlikeness. Those transformed will stop living for themselves and start living for Christ. This, then, is not just about Zechariah & Elizabeth. It is about the community that rejoices with them, that marvels and that will be saved. This means they will start living with other-centered love. That will reconcile them to the other-regarding God in whose image and likeness they—and we—are made.