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David Otten: The importance of St. John the Baptist

By Pastor David Otten
Contributing writer
updated: 7/1/2018 4:03 PM

Greetings from Faith Lutheran Church in Eldorado.

This last Sunday was the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist. Christians through the ages have reserved churchwide celebration of birthdays to only two other individuals, Mary and Jesus.

In the past the Nativity of John the Baptist took on a more important status, today even in liturgical churches it does not have the same popularity as it had in the past.

In our congregation the service was quite standard except the altar was adorned with white paraments. Adoring the altar or sanctuary with certain colors communicates the nature and importance of the festival or worship celebration. The color white signifies celebration, purity, innocence and gladness.

All the key events in Christ's life are marked with white, such as Christmas, Christ's Baptism and Easter. Why did John the Baptist's birthday take on such a significant status?

Status in the church is always in relationship to Christ and His work of salvation, for this is the center of Christian faith and Holy Scripture. John the Baptist is the forerunner to Christ, "the voice of one crying in the wilderness" (Matthew 3:3) who makes ready the way of the Lord.

He is the one who baptized our Lord, even though he was unworthy to do so. He led the first disciples to Jesus by pointing Christ out as "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

He shunned all importance and exalted Christ when questioned by the Pharisees and others from Jerusalem.

Even after John the Baptist seems to have faltered in this faith by asking Jesus through his disciples, "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" (Matthew 11:3) Jesus says of him, "he was more than a prophet" (vs 9) and "of those born of women there has arisen no one greater that John the Baptist." (vs 11).

No wonder Christians through the ages gave such high significance to John the Baptist.

Yet, John the Baptist knew that he must decrease as Jesus increases. That is part of the reason June 24 was chosen for celebration of his nativity. It is on the opposite end of the calendar as Christ's birth and falls just after the Summer Solstice.

The days are now decreasing even though the sun will burn hot during the summer months. This is a visual per se to show that John decreases, for he is not a co-redeemer.

As with others who are given titles of saints, we do not worship him but give thanks to God that he was used as God's instrument to point to Jesus and prepare Christ's way as He began His ministry.

May we heed John's call to repentance, turning in faith to our Savior, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

• David Otten is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Eldorado.

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