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A WONDROUS HISTORICAL CHILD - Isaiah 49:1-6; Acts 13:22-26; Luke 1:57-66,80 (The Nativity of John the Baptist, 24th June, 2015)
By Augustine Agwulonu
Wed, 24 Jun 2015

A WONDROUS HISTORICAL CHILD - Isaiah 49:1-6; Acts 13:22-26; Luke 1:57-66,80 (The Nativity of John the Baptist, 24th June, 2015)

Consoling, controversial, curious and wondrous are some words that come to mind when we want to discuss the birth, life, ministry and death of John the Baptist.

The announcement of John's conception was a curious news for Zechariah albeit his hidden excitement that a child was to be born to him at last. Zechariah might simply have wanted to be doubly assured that he can still father a child in his old age! John's birth obviously brought a great consolation to Elisabeth. The circumstances surrounding John's birth and naming ceremony were sources of wonder to Zechariah, his wife, their neighbors and kinsfolk. And of course even before John was conceived in his mother's womb, his imminent coming stirred up a controversy - first between his father, Zechariah and the Angel Gabriel. Later in his adult life and ministry, John remained a controversial figure, to King Herod and among his contemporaries even after he was beheaded and buried. The spirit and memory of John lived on, even after he was beheaded. He could not be forgotten (cf. Mt 14:1-2; Mk 2:18; Lk 7:24-29).

The summary of all the above information is that John was specially sent by God to play a very significant role in the run up to Jesus' public ministry. This is evident from the prophetic message we read from Isaiah 49:1-6. Indeed, the following words are true of John the Baptist: "The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm." John was not a product of historical chance, but a child of God's divine plan that was made manifest at the fullness of time to fulfill a predetermined divine purpose.

John neatly played the role for which he was sent. In the second reading, Paul speaks thus: "John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance
to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say,
‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me;
I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet." Here we observe John's humility and the fact of his contentment with his God-given assignment as Jesus' forerunner. He was comfortable with his position in the economy of salvation.

According to the Gospel reading, John is a source of the praise that flowed from the mouth of Zechariah. This is the response of all who behold and appreciate God's timely intervention in human history to give humanity and creation a new orientation and direction. John's nativity is worthy to be celebrated because it is not only unique and the circumstances surrounding it peculiar, but it is also the beginning of the new dawn of salvation for God's people.

On a day like this, we glorify and praise God specially for his mercy, for the light of salvation which was heralded by John the Baptist and for the hope of heaven which John's martyrdom reveals to us.

To him, who can do abundantly, more than we can ever imagine, be adoration and thanksgiving both now and forever, Amen!


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