ALMIGHTY God, by whose providence thy servant John Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Saviour by preaching repentance; Make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth's sake; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Reading below: Isaiah xl. 1 & St. Luke i. 57
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel;
for he hath visited and redeemed his people
Today the Church pauses to remember the story of the birth of St. John the Baptist as it is recorded in the first chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke. Zacharias, the old, devout, faithful, priest, stood at his post in the Temple. While tending the incense offering, the angel Gabriel appeared and told him that he would sire a child, whom he should name John. His son would be filled with the Holy Ghost from his birth. He was to be selected from all of mankind to be the Herald of the Lord. He would prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. Zacharias doubted, and asked for a sign. The angel told Zacharias he would not speak again until the birth of his son. That was certainly a sign he would not mistaken!
This great miracle was in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah recorded in our first reading. Isaiah told Israel that God would send a messenger before the coming of the Lord. One who would cry out to the people to prepare for the Lord's coming. And when the Lord came, he would be as a shepherd who would feed, protect, and love his flock.
Zacharias evidently conveyed to Elizabeth his vision and the angelic message. Elizabeth named her son John at his circumcision, and Zacharias confirmed the name in writing to the astonishment of his neighbors. Then God filled Zacharias with the Holy Ghost. His lips were loosed, and he began to praise God and prophesied: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation.... And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins"
As today's collect says, we are called to repent in preparation for the coming of the Lord. This is an essential part of the Salvation formula: confession, contrition, repentance, and acceptance of the Lord's sovereignty. Then, as the old hymn says, "Trust and Obey". In faith we must strive to follow Jesus. We must amend our lives and bravely and boldly proclaim truth and justice, and endeavor always to do the right thing. Finally, we are to keep watch always for the coming of the Lord. Amen.
HYMN at cyberhymnal.org THE GREAT FORERUNNER OF THE MORN
Isaiah xl. 1
COMFORT ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: and the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
St. Luke i. 57
ELISABETH'S full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her. And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God. And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea. And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him. And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.
Scripture from 1928 Book of Common Prayer
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