Homily for the Nativity of St. John the Forerunner

nathanielkiddnathanielkidd on 25 Jun 2012 02:34

Sing, O barren one: Shout for joy you who have borne no children. Rejoice and exult, proclaim the greatness of the wonderworking God, who makes deserts run with flowing streams, and transforms wastelands into fertile valleys. For today, she who was called barren gives birth, and even in her old age she brings forth a son, who is the greatest of the prophets, full of the Spirit from his mother’s womb. Elizabeth bears John the Forerunner, and rejoicing with her, we keep the feast. The mouth of Zechariah is opened, and we open our mouths with him to bless the God of Israel, who has come to his people and set them free. We open our mouths to laud the King who has raised up for us a mighty salvation, according to his ancient and eternal promises.

He is born, who leapt in the womb at the sound of the voice of the mother of our Lord. He is born, the messenger, who will prepare the way of the Lord, and make straight his paths. He is born, the promised Elijah, who turns the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers. He is born, the witness, who came to bear witness to the light.

A thunder foretells the coming storm. The last lamp of night anticipates the rising of the Sun. The first spark of pentecostal fire is kindled. He who with his words proclaims the coming of the Word of God makes his first cry. His life is already a pouring out to his own decrease that the one who follows after him might increase.

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He is born, whose tragic and cruel execution on the machinery of depraved political mechanisms foreshadow our Lord’s Crucifixion and redeeming sacrifice. He is born, in whom wicked Herod will first learn to tremble at the promised resurrection. He is born, who is truly the forerunner: let us run forth to imitate the virtue revealed in him.

The Forerunner is born, and we keep the feast: for here we find the nativity of our Lord foreshadowed even at the opposite pole of the year. We keep the feast, for the Cross is now the axis of history, and the ticking of time is measured from the moment of incarnation, and all moments surround him like his ministering angels, gathered to adore the boundless depth of his infinite eternity.

The Forerunner is born: let us go out to the desert to meet him. The Forerunner is born, let us gather round him like the pilgrims and penitents he plunges into the waters of River Jordan. He is called the Baptizer, but not because he baptized many. He is called the Baptizer because he baptized One. He baptized the One whose baptism washed away not his own sins, but the sins of the whole world.

These infant hands we behold today will soon grow broad and strong; these hands will grab hold of our Christ, and lower into the water for our sakes the one whose sandal he is unworthy to stoop down and untie. Yet this is what is required to fulfill all righteousness, for he enters our humanity, that we may be enabled to participate in his divinity.

John is born: let us go out to meet him, to behold him, to consider his preaching. Let us listen to the Word he proclaims both by his voice and by his life. For he lived as a voice crying out in the wilderness, a voice crying out “Make the way straight! Prepare a highway for our God! Level the mountains, raise up the valleys, pave the desert: the Lord of all is coming! The Lord of all is coming, and suddenly he will appear.”

He is a voice crying out in the wilderness, and so in the wilderness we find him. We find him in the wilderness: a man out along the extreme margins of the mortal world, bearded and barefoot and wild-eyed, clothed in camel hair, fed on the austere bounty of the Lord of all, on locusts and wild honey. His mouth is frantically agape in prophetic proclamation: Spirit-saturated words tumble forth from his lips like a flowing stream: they rise up and shake the earth, shatter kingdoms, pierce the soul to its very root.

This is the one we have come out to see. Not a mere reed, shaken by the wind — not an instrument piped for the sake of vanity or frivolity. Here is no spectacle of laziness, no example of attention-grabbing, counter-cultural rebellion. This is not another instance of self-seeking, fetishistic indulgence. This is a prophet, and a prophet indeed, aglow with the uncreated light of the super-surpassing deity. By the Spirit of God working within him, he tears the very fabric of time and eternity and borrows his preaching from the end of the ages, paving the way for the Coming One. Even now his voice echoes: magnified through the ages, it sounds in sharp, urgent staccatos. His powerful proclamation pierces our hearts through the printed word of Scripture and pounds now upon our ears: “Repent! Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” For even now the axe is at the root of the tree, and every tree that does not produce the good fruit of repentance will be cut down and cast into the fire.

Even now John is calling to us: “Come down to the waters,” he invites us “Come and baptize your very intentions. Call out upon the Triune God and wash yourself in tears. Leap into the Divine Embrace, which at once is fire and water. Be set free from modern mediocrity, that in your freedom you may offer to God more pure and perfect praise.”

Let us heed his calling; let us take up his call, so that when the Lord passes by, we may run with feet unfettered to meet him of whom John attests, “This is him of whom I spoke, who coming after me is preferred before me.”

Today the Forerunner is born. Honor the Forerunner by running forth. Forget what is behind, stretch on for what is ahead. Imitate his striving: for the Kingdom of God suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. Praise the wonderworking God, who has opened this river in the desert, who has opened mute mouths to sing his praise, who has brought forth from a barren womb the culmination of the Prophets. To him be glory, now and forever. Amen.

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