What Then Will This Child Become? – Br. Jim Woodrum

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Luke 1:57-80

What then will this child become? In the event of the birth of a child, this is not an uncommon question. As family, friends, and the wider community come together to celebrate a new birth, there are many hopes, dreams, and well-wishes expressed to the parents. As each year passes, many in this same circle will come together and celebrate the birthday of the young child as it grows, matures, and takes on personality and interests. Eventually they will find their place in that same community, contributing to the wider society, and carrying on the legacy of their parents. There are many in the community who will have a hand in helping to guide the child as they grow into adulthood. Looking back, perhaps we can name all of those who have been influential in our lives and have taken stock in our well-being.

In our gospel lesson from Luke, this question is flavored by the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the birth of John. His mother and father were well on in years. Elizabeth, well past child bearing age and having never been able to conceive, now finds herself pregnant. How will she be able to care for a child in her old age, much less survive childbirth? Zechariah, after an angelic vision in the Temple announcing the birth of his son and his vocational future as the Baptizer, questions this as real and is struck mute as a sign. The name given to the boy is unknown to the family. The loosening of Zechariah’s tongue, his praising of God, and his proclamation of prophecy connecting this birth to God’s covenant with Israel is a strange occurrence. The gospel writer says: “Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about through the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, ‘What then will THIS child become?’” Read More

A Day of Small Beginnings – Br. James Koester

Br. James KoesterFeast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Isaiah 40: 1-11
Psalm 85: 7-13
Acts 13: 14b-26
Luke 1: 57-80

It doesn’t take much: a young girl, barely a teenager, lowering her bucket into the village well, listening for the splash when it hits the water[1]; an old man, hands shaking with age, alone in the sanctuary of the Lord, spooning incense onto the red hot charcoal of the altar brazier[2]. It doesn’t take much, and suddenly there is a moment, a movement, a presence, a strange voice, a greeting: ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you’[3]; a command and a promise: ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’[4]

It doesn’t take much, a young girl, barely a teenager, going about her daily chores; an old man, whose hands tremble with age, performing a duty he had done, perhaps countless times before, yet something is profoundly different. Read More

Making Sense of Your Destiny – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis AlmquistNativity of St. John the Baptist
Preached at Emery House
Isaiah 40:1-11 • Acts 13:14b-26 • Luke 1: 57-80

Zechariah, a priest of the temple, and his devout wife, Elizabeth, are childless and elderly when they are visited by the angel Gabriel and told they will be parents of a son. Their son will become a great prophet, and herald the coming of the long-awaited Messiah. How can this be? About six months later Gabriel appears to a relative of Elizabeth who is an unmarried young woman named Mary. She is told that she is going to bear the Messiah. How can this be? Elizabeth does indeed give birth to a son, John, and Mary gives birth six months later to a son, Jesus. If we work our ways backwards in the western calendar of the church, with the birth of Jesus being celebrated on December 25th, the birth of his cousin John would be celebrated six months earlier, today, the 24th of June: John, the miracle son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, who were old enough to be his great grandparents. Jesus, the miracle son of Mary, almost too young to be a mother, and her fiancé, Joseph, who becomes Jesus’ stepfather. Read More

Frail Flesh and Family – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke DitewigIsaiah 40:1-11; Acts 13: 14b-26; Luke 1:57-80

Zechariah and Elizabeth are quite elderly when the angel Gabriel visits and says they will have a child. Zechariah doesn’t believe it. He becomes mute, unable to speak, for nine months until their son’s birth. About six months later Gabriel appears to a relative of Elizabeth, an unmarried young woman named Mary.  Gabriel tells her she will have a son, the Messiah. Joseph, her fiancé, also receives a startling visit from an angel. Elizabeth does give birth to John, and Mary gives birth six months later to Jesus.

We will celebrate Jesus’ birth in six months on December 25th. So today, June 24th, we celebrate John’s birth. John was born to barren Elizabeth and Zechariah, who were old enough to be his great grandparents. Jesus was born to virgin Mary, almost too young to be a mother, and her husband-to-be, Joseph. These are improbable parents, impossible births, and wondrous stories.  Read More

Becoming John-like – Br. James Koester

Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Isaiah 40: 1-11
Psalm 85: 7-13
Acts 13: 14b-26
Luke 1: 57-80

Six months ago we celebrated the birth of a baby. And not just any baby, but a particular baby whose birth and life and death and life changed the course of world history. But the birth of that baby did not just change world history; it also changed the lives and histories of countless women and men throughout the centuries, including each one of us. None of us here in the chapel tonight have had our lives untouched by the One whose birth we celebrated last December. Even the most skeptical and cynical, the most casual, or simply the most curious here tonight have been changed in incalculable ways by that birth. If that were not true, why are you not home making supper even as we speak?

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Nativity of St. John the Baptist – Br. Curtis Almquist

Luke 1: 57-80

Almighty God, by whose providence your servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior by preaching repentance: Make us so to follow his teaching and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and, following his example, constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. Read More

The Nativity of John the Baptist – Br. David Allen

Is. 40:1-11 / Ps. 85:7-13 / Acts 13:14b-26 / Lk. 1:57-80

Just over 13 months ago, while Br. Timothy and I were chaplains to a group of pilgrims at St. George’s College, Jerusalem, we were taken to visit the village of Ein Kerem, just to the west of the city of Jerusalem.  According to tradition this is the village where John the Baptist was born. Read More