Festival Service ~ June 24, 2018 ~ The Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Johannisfest)
The Forerunner of Christ
In the Church Year calendar, June 24 is The Nativity of St. John the Baptist. John’s nativity followed the course of most Jewish births at the time. The age of his parents, however, indicated that his conception was miraculous. Not miraculous like Jesus who had no earthly father; but miraculous because both Elizabeth and Zechariah were “advanced in years” and Elizabeth was barren (Luke 1:7). Thus, friends and relatives, recognizing God’s hand in all of this, buzzed about John’s future. “What then will this child be?” (Luke 1:66) Zechariah knew. Through the power of the Holy Spirit he prophesied, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways” (Luke 1:76).
No, St. John the Baptist was not the Christ; only His Forerunner (Acts 13:25). He was called from the womb to bring Jacob back to God through his baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Is 49:5), just as Christ was the true Servant of the Lord. Miraculously conceived by Zechariah the priest of barren Elizabeth, John was marked to be the greatest born of women (Matt. 11:11). The Church rejoices over the Lord’s mercy just as Elizabeth’s neighbors and relatives did at John’s birth. But when Zechariah’s tongue was loosed, John was not the subject of his song. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who has visited and redeemed His people. John is the voice preparing the way of the Lord (Isa. 40:3); Jesus, the virgin-born Son of God, is that Lord. John is the prophet of the Most High. He is born to give knowledge of salvation to God’s people by the forgiveness of their sins, because Christ the Dayspring is visiting (Luke 1:76–79). Thus, what John preaches is the comfort of iniquity pardoned by Jesus, the promised Savior of Israel (Acts 13:23) and the nations, that His salvation may reach to the end of the earth (Isa. 49:6).