Jesus said to the Jews: “You sent emissaries to John, and he testiﬁed to the truth. I do not accept testimony from a human being, but I say this so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light.
But I have testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me.”
Today we begin our traditional Simbang Gabi, a nine-day series of Masses, prayers, and acts of sacrifice in preparation for Christmas. The principal figure of Advent is John the Baptist being the Precursor of the Messiah. He prepared the people for the coming of the Lord. But still, the most central figure in the coming of the Lord is no other than the Blessed Virgin Margin. It was she who conceived in her womb the Incarnate Son of God. She is the ‘Theotokos’, the bearer of God’s Son. That is why, it should be noted that the entire Simbang Gabi Liturgy is celebrated in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We set aside these nine days in her honor as our immediate preparation for the great feast of the Birth of the Lord. The nine days can be seen as representing the nine months that the Incarnate Son of God stayed in her virginal womb.
As we begin the Simbang Gabi, one thing we all find delight in is the colorful display of Christmas lights coming from lanterns and other decorations. Indeed, Christmas is the season of lights. The coming of the Savior heralds the end of darkness and the reign of light, for He is the true Light of the world. Light does not only bring joy, but most importantly, salvation.
On this first day, the liturgy focuses on light. But this does not refer yet to the Light of the world, Jesus. Rather, Jesus talks about John the Baptist: “He was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light.” This statement reinforces the fact stated earlier in the first chapter that John “was not the light, but came to testify to the light” (Jn 1:8).
However, despite this, John is still a shining lamp giving out light because of his closeness to the true Light, Jesus Christ. He clearly and brilliantly reflects the light of Jesus. That is why the Lord praised him: “Among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist” (Mt 11:11).
The light of John comes principally from his fidelity to his mission. Many times people asked him if he was the Messiah. But his answer is always the categorical ‘no’. He is clear about his role: he is just the voice, not the word; he is not the light, for he only testified to the light; he came to baptize with water, but someone greater that he is going to baptize “with the Holy Spirit and fire.” He is clear about his future: the ‘Bridegroom’ must increase, the ‘friend of the Bridegroom’ must decrease.
During this Christmas season, we enjoy the beautiful lights all around. Let these be reminders for us that we share in the light of Christ. We must reflect His light to all those we encounter, just like John the Baptist. And the best way to do this is by our unconditional obedience to the will of God, and faithfulness to the mission entrusted to us by Christ. Then, and only then, can we become shining lamps that can bring people away from darkness of ignorance and sin and lead them to the True Light, Jesus Christ.
St. Teresa of Kolkata said, “If I ever become a Saint–I will surely be one of ‘darkness.’ I will continually be absent from Heaven–to light the light of those in darkness on earth.”
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches
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