The festival of the birth of John the Baptist

The festival of the birth of John the Baptist is 24 June

Very few people are mentioned in the Bible before they are born – John the Baptist is one of them. Today is the festival of his birth and one thing we remember is that before he was born, John leapt in the womb of his mother Elizabeth on the joyful encounter between her and the Blessed Virgin Mary when the cousins were both pregnant – Mary with Jesus. Luke tells us that ‘the child grew and became strong in spirit.’ (Luke 1.80) All four gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John include the words from the prophet Isaiah about the messenger who will be ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the
Lord, make his paths straight.”’ (Isaiah 40.3). John grows up to be a desert hermit and public crusader calling on people to repent of their sins and pointing people to Jesus as ‘The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’ (John 1.29)

Repentance involves more than just saying sorry. When the crowds asked John the Baptist what they should do, he told those who had two coats or plenty of food to give to those who had none; when the tax collectors asked he told them to collect no more than was due and when the soldiers came he told them not to use threats or false accusations to extract money from people and to be satisfied with their wages (Luke 3.10-14). What might he say to you?

The Collect – the special prayer for today

Almighty God,
by whose providence your servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born,
and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Saviour
by the preaching of repentance:
lead us to repent according to his preaching
and, after his example,
constantly to speak the truth, boldly to rebuke vice,
and patiently to suffer for the truth’s sake;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.