Commentary on the Gospel of

Eileen Wirth-Creighton University's Department of Journalism, Media and Computing & Joseph Johnson, cmf

John the Baptist was Elizabeth’s miracle baby – the child this barren woman was never supposed to have.

It turns out she had good reason to ignore the tradition of naming her son after his father or other relatives when she announced that “he will be called John,” a choice that Zachariah confirmed. But why was this such a big deal that God restored the speech that Zachariah had lost when he doubted his wife’s pregnancy?

Googling “John” revealed that in Hebrew it means “God is gracious.” In short, Elizabeth was thanking God for her incredible gift. This turns a story about naming a child into a timely opportunity to reflect on the gifts God has given each of us. Let me share one of my favorite holiday customs.

As an antidote to the last- minute shopping, cooking, cleaning and mailing, I reserve an evening hour during the week before Christmas for what I will now call my “God is gracious” timeout.

I turn off all the lights except the Christmas tree and play a couple of St. Louis Jesuit Advent hymns to quiet my mind. When I’m completely relaxed, I read Luke’s glorious Christmas gospel while listening to “Angels We Have Heard on High” followed by “Silent Night” and “O Holy Night.” I try to imagine the scene outside Bethlehem when the angels appeared to the shepherds. As a sense of peace washes over me, I thank God for his many gifts, especially for the people who have blessed my life.

I remember childhood Christmases with my parents and sibling and Christmas rituals with my children such as keeping the Wise Men on the mantle until Epiphany.

I recall the annual party that my late Jesuit friend Dick Hauser hosted that taught me how sacred socializing can be. Dick always opened his parties by reading the scripture detailing Jesus’ ancestry to remind us that we had come together to celebrate the Incarnation. Over the years, this party became a treasured way of finding God in all things.

I hope you have similar memories, traditions and rituals that speak to you of God’s graciousness and remind you that time with loved ones is holy.  May God’s peace and joy be with you and yours!



December 23 

The birth of John the Baptist is the story about his parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, and the impact of his birth in the world around, near and far. His birth was a sign of mercy that God showed to his people as Elizabeth experienced the extraordinary intervention of God in Baptist’s birth. The apparent curse was removed from the life of the elderly couple and his birth filled everyone with joy. The neighbours and relatives saw this as a “great favour and blessing from God.”  Even at birth John was an instrument of God’s blessing to people. No wonder people marvelled: “who this child will be?” His name revealed his mission. John means ‘God is gracious’, and he lived true to his name from the outset and prepared a people to encounter the graciousness of God. John knew that he was called to be light. In other words, to be good and to model the Messiah that was eagerly awaited. We too participate in the mission of John the Baptist in communicating God’s grace and goodness through, with and in us.


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