Isaiah 49.1-6; Ps 138; Acts 13.22-26; Luke 1.57-66,80
St Luke presents the births of Our Lord and of his cousin John in tandem: first the angelic annunciation to Zachary, John’s priestly father; then the annunciation to Mary; then the birth of John; and finally, the birth of Jesus. John’s vocation was given before his birth as Jesus’ forerunner with the task of ‘preparing for the Lord a people fit for him.’ [Luke 1.17]
St John Baptist was the last and greatest of the prophets and our celebration of his birthday marks the dawning of a new dispensation. He himself declared of the coming Lord that ‘he must increase, and I must decrease’ [John 3.30] and, in each of the Gospels, it is John’s imprisonment that marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. [Mark 1.14] St John’s fearless preaching [Matthew 3.7-12] and his insistence that our spiritual lives profoundly determine how we must live in this world [Luke 3.7-14] set the stage for the Gospel that Jesus would proclaim. Many of Jesus’ earliest disciples had previously been disciples of John the Baptist [John 1.35-42], and the Passion of John Baptist [Mark 6.17-29] is a foreshadowing of the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus.