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Who is Who

I am sure we have all noticed the new practice of drive-by birthday celebrations in these days of contagion precautions. The birthday person stands outside and waves as relatives and friends—-and sometimes even the local police or rescue squads drive past the house and shout or sound their horns and sirens. It is like a party on wheels, and it is over in just a few minutes, but the message of love and caring is cleverly conveyed with posters, balloons, and celebratory smiles.
Today, we celebrate the nativity of John the Baptist. We cannot do a drive-by or a camel or donkey ride-by, but we can take some time to run by the story and some reasons for thanking God for such a humble and dedicated messenger of the good news of Christ’s coming.
The birth of John the Baptist was foretold in the Old Testament by the prophets Isaiah (40:3-5) and Malachi (3:1), but when the angel Gabriel told Zechariah that he and his wife, Elizabeth, were going to parent a son who they were to name John, Zechariah did not believe him. The angel responded by rendering Zechariah mute (Luke 1:5-25.)
When Elizabeth gave birth, and Zechariah insisted the baby’s name was to be John, the neighbors were more amazed and fearful than celebratory as they wondered what was in store for this child! (Luke 1:59-66) Questions! Who is this John?
As he grew into his mission, John was not a fancy dresser, opting for camel-hair clothing and leather belt. The attention was not supposed to be on him but on his message to his followers—namely, the importance of repentance because of the coming of the Messiah. John was the advance man, the one who baptized with water in advance of the Savior who would baptize with the Spirit and fire. John baptized Jesus at Jesus’ request, but John knew he was not worthy of performing this ritual. And at that moment, “a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’”
John had a calling to fulfill, and he was diligent and faithful. We know the good news about Jesus, but how diligent and faithful are we about spreading it? We certainly have a good model to follow, although we may need to use personal anecdotal stories or carefully look for opportunities to teach others about the God of mercy, love, and kindness. John was not afraid to admonish people who were sinful. We can more gently encourage others to turn from sinful tendencies and trust in God’s forgiveness.
John the Baptist understood that his job was to point the way to the Messiah. He was there to guide others, and ultimately, he died a martyr’s death. In Matthew 11:11a, Jesus said: Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist….
Let us pray and ask John the Baptist to help us look attentively for Jesus in our everyday life experiences and to proclaim Jesus’ saving presence in this drive-by world of ours!
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.
The scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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