Der Vasken's Sermon on January 7, 2018

Jan 10, 2018

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Yesterday, being Armenian Christmas, we continue our celebration today and focus on another event--a lesser celebrated event--let's say.  It's a lesser celebrated event that is also remembered on January 6.  Today we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus Christ as well.  This is where His story begins as an adult in this world.  And there is a relative of Jesus' in this story--a cousin of His, who plays a central role in this important event.  His name is John the Baptist--humble, selfless, a man of great faith.  The Armenian Church Fathers so highly regarded John the Baptist that they considered him as the greatest saint second only to St. Mary. 

Most of us have heard of John the Baptist, but very few of us know about him or what he did other than serve as the person who baptized Jesus.  John the Baptist is one of the most distinctive characters in the New Testament.  He had an unusual flare for fashion, wearing wild-looking clothing made of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist.  He lived in the desert wilderness, ate locust and wild honey and preached a message that seemed strange to some but drew the attention of many others.  His role was to prepare and announce to the world of the arrival of the Son of God because he knew that with Jesus' arrival into this world, a "new" relationship was about to begin between God and people.

St. John held no power or political influence during his time on earth but his message was spoken with great authority.  His time in this world was short-lived.  He died when he was barely thirty years old but the consequences of his actions live on even today and will for generations to come.  The Armenian Church venerates this man because of the value of his message.  He did more than baptize people.  He called on people to give up self-centered ways.  He called on people to own up to their wrongs and he called on them to establish a relationship with the Almighty God.  John the Baptist did more than baptize people.  He lifted them up and built them up and he offered them not only hope but also a new direction in life and a path to follow. 

If he lived among us today, he would be telling us to use our words to lift each other up.  If John the Baptist lived among us today, he would be encouraging us to serve God every day.  He would call us to love people and help people and to do it every day.  He would call us to reach out to those in need and help them starting right now.  He would tell us to live life by seeing the needs of others and he would tell us that we have so much to offer other people so go out and be a blessing to their lives. If people only heard these words today, think about how different our world would be.

It's not hard to criticize and condemn.  It's not hard to point out the flaws and failures of others and it's not hard to tear people down.  But God wants something else from us.  God wants us to build up and be a blessing to them.  Think about it. 

  • Is it hard to offer a compliment?
  • Is it hard to tell a member of your family that you love them?
  • Is it hard to offer an encouraging word to a child or to tell someone that you appreciate them?
  • In reality, is it really that hard to do these things?

John the Baptist, who serves as the link between the Old Testament  and the New Testament, is telling everyone , who can hear, that it's not enough to think kind words and compliments.  We need to speak them.  Today, we remember John the Baptist.  And in remembering this great saint, may we all get up each morning with an attitude that says:

  • "I'm aware that I can make someone's day better today."
  • "I'm going to build someone up."
  • "I'm going to help meet somebody else's needs."

John the Baptist went through life building up and he encourages us to be and to do no less. So think about the people in your life.  We all know of someone who needs a boost, a kind word or a pat on the back.  We see people every day at work, at school and at home, who are in need of something that money can't buy.  And so, in the spirit of this great saint, offer that person what they need.  And may we all follow his example and be today's "John the Baptist."  We all know of someone who needs a boost, a kind word or a pat on the back.  Go out and make a difference in that person's life.