This Sunday is a very special Sunday; it also happened six years ago if you remember that far back. When June 24 is on a Sunday, we celebrate ‘The Nativity of St. John the Baptist’.
This does not happen every time there is a saint’s day or a day to remember someone in the Church’s history. And the newest hymnal, Lutheran Service Book, explains this distinction. On the page which lays out the feasts and festivals of the church year, there are several of them in bold print. The reason for this bold print is given below—in admittedly small print:
‘The observances listed in boldface are principal feasts of Christ and are normally observed when they occur on a Sunday. The other festivals may be observed according to local custom and preference (p. xi).’
Which are these ‘principal feasts of Christ’? They are the ones that primarily have to do with Jesus’ entrance into this world of sin. They are, in essentially chronological order, the following: ‘Circumcision and Name of Jesus, The Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord, The Annunciation of Our Lord, The Visitation, The Nativity of St. John the Baptist, St. Michael and All Angels, All Saints’ Day’.
What makes a feast of Christ a so-called ‘principal’ one? It does not always involve Mary, the mother of Jesus. It does not always involve a disciple or one of the evangelists—one of the writers of the gospel accounts. It also does not always involve an apostle.
It involves being a messenger. A messenger brings important news. Sometimes it is good, and sometimes it is bad, but it is ALWAYS important. (Ask anyone who has run a marathon.) The news is important enough for someone to take time out of his or her busy day and run to another place, however far away (even 26.2 miles!), to deliver some very important information.
The angels of the Old Testament did that in their day. The Saints of the New Testament era are continuing to do that in our day. But we could probably call Jesus the messenger above all messengers.
His coming added a New Testament to the Old Testament! His coming redefined terms like ‘good news’ and ‘grace’. And you might say that he wrote the book on love.
I probably knew this before, but it was pointed out to me recently that part of the Old Testament text for this Sunday is quoted in ALL FOUR gospel accounts. That does not happen very often. ‘Prepare the way of the Lord’ is an important message. The voice of John the Baptist prepared the world for a new era—a world-wide Savior in Jesus Christ.
You would think that an important voice would be connected to the city of Jerusalem. This voice was, instead, connected to the wilderness; but this voice was discussing what Jerusalem was all about. This new message is a new way to have access to the Maker of heaven and earth. Go to Jesus, not to Jerusalem. Better yet, just wait. After all, he is the messenger.