Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
LET US GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD
I give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart. Psalm 9:1
The word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness, and he went into all the region about the Jordan preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Luke 3: 2-6
Good morning Prayer Team!
This week, we wind our way through the final few reflections on gratitude, before we change topics again next week. And we focus now on the upcoming feast of the Theophany or Epiphany. Central to this feast of course, is our Lord, Jesus Christ, who came to be baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. At the moment of the Baptism, the Holy Trinity was revealed to the world for the first time, as the Son of God was in the waters of the Jordan, the Spirit of God alighted on Him in the form of a dove, and the voice of God the Father was heard saying “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)
The secondary figure in the feast is St. John the Baptist and this week’s reflections will give a lot of emphasis to his role as the Forerunner of Christ. Saint John was the son of Zacharias and Elizabeth, and was a cousin of Jesus. He also had had somewhat of a miraculous birth, as his parents were very old when they had him. John lived in the wilderness, where he was “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” He was designated by God to be the Forerunner of Christ, the one who was preparing the people to receive the Christ. With the human race in existence for many millennia after the fall, how would anyone have known when the time of Christ was going to be upon them? This was St. John’s role, to let people know that the Christ was coming and to endorse Christ to the people.
Saint John was out in the wilderness preaching to people about the coming of Christ. Some people must have thought he was “out of his mind,” the way he dressed (in camel’s hair, he looked pretty rough) and preached with a zeal about a topic most knew nothing about, and those who did, were skeptical of what he said. Indeed he was a voice of one, there were no others preaching like him. And he was out in the wilderness. He wasn’t living in a palace. His work was not glorious or luxurious by any means.
I think a lot about John’s message in Luke 3: 3-6. Sometimes, the fervent Christian must feel like John, like the voice of one crying in the wilderness. Indeed there are lots of valleys in life that can only be filled with God, lots of crooked ways that need to be straightened and rough places that need to be smoothed. I always feel empowered when I read the phrase “and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Indeed, Christ tells us that at the end of the world, all will see the glory and the majesty of God. Those who have believed and have lived a life of faith will inherit eternal life. And those who have not believed or lived a life of faith will inherit eternal punishment.
This message is ridiculed by those outside the faith as a myth. The Bible is seen as just a nice moral code or helpful life advice. However, it is not a moral code that comforts me when I’m in a low valley, or helpful life advice that makes my rough ways smooth. It is the Lord who does these things. And like those who heard John the Baptist and his voice crying in the wilderness, we too are to heed this voice and prepare the way for the Lord to come into our hearts, so that we will see the salvation that comes from God.
Lord, thank You for the gift of salvation. Thank You for the message of salvation that we can read and understand in the Bible. Thank You for those who help interpret the message of salvation to us. Help me to prepare the way to my heart so that You can always dwell in it. Make my paths straight, fill my valleys, make my crooked paths and rough ways to become smooth and lead me to Your salvation, today and always. Amen.
Open your ears to hear God’s voice today!
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