Sunday, June 26, 2011

John 3:27-30 - Christmas and John The Baptist

Scripture John 3:27-30

John answered, "No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full. He must increase, but I must decrease.


I have taken this opportunity to reflect on an important day in our calendar.

On this day each year the Church remembers the birth of John the Baptist.

Why today?

Like all things in the Christian faith, its meaning should be Christo-centric (centred on Christ).

The 24th of June – which was regarded as the date of the Summer Solstice (northern hemisphere) where from this point onwards the days got shorter meaning the amount of day light was becoming less and less culminating on the day of the Winter solstice when the amount of light was at its least..

The Winter Solstice occurs exactly when the Earth's axial tilt is farthest away from the sun and occurs on the shortest day, and longest night, and the sun's daily maximum position in the sky is the lowest.

In 46 BCE, Julius Caesar in his Julian calendar established December 25 as the date of the winter solstice of Europe. (wikipedia)

The birth of Jesus is “observed” on December 25 historically recognised as the day of the winter solstice, while the birth of His forerunner is observed six months earlier at the time of the summer solstice. Christmas is a "light" feast; the same is true today. (

In other words, the amount of light from this day (June 24) onwards was reducing.

The days were getting shorter and the nights longer.

Therefore, the time in history when Jesus was born (recognised in the Church as during the Winter solstice) the nights were at their darkest and the amount of light during the day was as its least.

Jesus then declared that He was the light of the world.

This point has great spiritual significance.

The text below is from a sermon on John the Baptist of St. Augustine written over 1500 years ago (Sermo 293, 1-3; PL 38, 1327-1328)

John is born of an old woman who is barren; Christ is born of a young woman who is a virgin.

That John will be born is not believed, and his father is struck dumb;

That Christ will be born is believed, and he is conceived by faith.

John, it seems, has been inserted as a kind of boundary between the two Testaments, the Old and the New. That he is somehow or other a boundary is something that the Lord himself indicates when he says, The Law and the prophets were until John. So he represents the old and heralds the new.

Because he represents the old, he is born of an elderly couple;

Because he represents the new, he is revealed as a prophet in his mother’s womb.

You will remember that, before he was born, at Mary’s arrival he leapt in his mother’s womb. Already he had been marked out there, designated before he was born; it was already shown whose forerunner he would be, even before he saw him. These are divine matters, and exceed the measure of human frailty.

Finally, he is born, he receives a name, and his father’s tongue is loosed.

Zachary is struck dumb and loses his voice, until John, the Lord’s forerunner, is born and releases his voice for him.

What does Zachary’s silence mean, but that prophecy was obscure and, before the proclamation of Christ, somehow concealed and shut up? It is released and opened up by his arrival, it becomes clear when the one who was being prophesied is about to come. The releasing of Zachary’s voice at the birth of John has the same significance as the tearing of the veil of the Temple at the crucifixion of Christ. If John were meant to proclaim himself, he would not be opening Zachary’s mouth.

The tongue is released because a voice is being born – for when John was already heralding the Lord, he was asked, Who are you and he replied I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.

John is the voice, but the Lord in the beginning was the Word. John is a voice for a time, but Christ is the eternal Word from the beginning.

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