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Thread: The Nativity of John the Baptist

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    The Nativity of John the Baptist

    The Nativity of John the Baptist (or Birth of John the Baptist, or Nativity of the Forerunner, or colloquially Johnmas or (in German) Johannistag) is a Christian feast day celebrating the birth of John the Baptist, a prophet who foretold the coming of the Messiah in the person of Jesus, whom he later baptised. The undivided Christian Church designated June 24 as the feast day of the early Christian martyr St John the Baptist, and the observance of St John's Day begins the evening before, known as St John's Eve. These are commemorated by many Christian denominations, such as the Roman Catholic Church, Lutheran Churches, and Anglican Communion.

    Within Christian theology, this carries significance as John the Baptist was "was understood to be preparing the way for Jesus", with John 3:30 stating "He must increase, but I must decrease"; this is symbolized in the fact that the "sun begins to diminish at the summer solstice and eventually increases at the winter solstice." The circumstances of his birth, as recorded in the New Testament, are miraculous. John's pivotal place in the gospel is seen in the emphasis Luke gives to the announcement of his birth and the event itself, both set in prominent parallel to the same occurrences in the life of Jesus. Here is a brief summary of the birth of John the Baptist in Luke’s Gospel. Luke 1:5-25 tells the story of the Archangel Gabriel’s annunciation to Zechariah (John the Baptist’s father) as he was executing his priestly service burning incense in the sanctuary. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were elderly, past child-bearing age, and were childless. They had prayed and prayed to conceive. Gabriel announced to Zechariah that his prayer had been heard and that Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth, who was barren and aged, would give birth to a son named John. But Zechariah was incredulous and questioned Gabriel. Because of this initial doubt, Zechariah was rendered mute until this prophecy was fulfilled. After Zechariah’s priestly service ended and he returned home, Elizabeth conceived. In Luke 1:57-66 we hear the story of the birth and naming of John the Baptist. Elizabeth, who was aged and had been considered barren, gave birth to her son. Her neighbors and relatives all rejoiced with her. Everyone assumed that the infant would be named Zechariah after his father. But Elizabeth corrected them, stating that the baby was to be named John. Now, the friends and relatives gathered there were confused, as no one in the family was named John. So they asked Zechariah, who was still mute, what the child was to be named. Zechariah took a tablet and wrote down that his son was named John. And it was at this point that Zechariah was once again able to speak.

    The Solemnity of Saint John the Baptist is sometimes called the Midsummer Nativity. And being a solemnity, it has a vigil on June 23, which is sometimes referred to as Midsummer’s Eve. The Midsummer Nativity and its vigil, Midsummer’s Eve, have been celebrated around the world for centuries and centuries. One predominant way of celebrating is with a bonfire. We keep the longest day of the year with raging all night bonfires, keeping even the nighttime bright! And John being the Baptist, water is also featured in many celebrations.
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