The Herald Weekly Vol XV : 49

The Other BABY

It is that time of year when almost every household goes for the end-of-the year holiday, as well as prepare for the Christmas celebration. It is the time of the year when we remember the birth of Jesus Christ. But, have you ever wondered that before Christ’s birth, there was the birth of another baby. That was the birth of His cousin, John (the Baptist, as he was later known as).

1. His birth was a promise from God (Lk 1:5-13)

John the Baptist was a child promised to his elderly parents. Zacharias was a priest in the temple of God, and his mother was Elisabeth, a cousin of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Both his parents were described as “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” They had no children as Elisabeth was barren, and both of them were “stricken in years”. But God showed His grace on them and promised that they would have a child. When it was Zacharias’ turn to burn incense in the temple, an angel of the Lord informed him that God had heard their prayers, and that Elizsbeth will bear a child, and his name will be called “John” (1:13). His father was shocked by the “glad tidings”, and the angel Gabriel said that he would remain dumb until all of the angel’s words were fulfilled.

2. He was born with a special role

The birth of John the Baptist brought joy and gladness to his parents, and “many shall rejoice at his birth.” The angel said that “he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.” His role was to turn “many of the children of Israel … to the Lord their God.” He would also be anointed with the “spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Lk1:14-17). At his birth, his father, Zacharias, opened his mouth (having been dumb throughout his wife’s pregnancy), and praised God for his son. He blessed the God of Israel and emphasized that God had visited and redeemed His people. God raised up “an horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David” (Lk 1:68-69). He referred to John, and said, “And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways” (Lk 1:76). John was going to lead the people of Israel to the Lamb of God.

3. He led a different life focused on serving God

John was not known as one dressed in fancy clothes or ate and drank luxuriously. He led a rugged life in the wilderness of the Judean mountains. Matthew chapter 3 tells us that he wore clothes made out of camel’s hair, and a leather girdle around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. He desired no wealth or had any great ambition. He lived simply, and focused on the ministry that was set for him – preaching to people all over Jerusalem, Judea and the Jordanian region who went to listen to him. He baptized those who confessed their sins, and heeded his words to “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2, 6). His message was blunt and unpolished. His top priority in life was to see souls saved for God’s kingdom; to make the crooked paths straight, and calling sinners to repentance.

4. His life gave glory to God

John the Baptist knew that he was just the forerunner for He who was to come. When Jesus came to be baptized by him, John said: “I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?” (Matt 3:13-14) He maintained a humble attitude and did not claim God’s glory to himself. He told all those who came to him about the Messiah to come, and said, “He it is, who coming after me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.” (John 1:26-27). When he saw Jesus approaching, he exalted Jesus Christ, and said: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). When his disciples informed him that many were following Jesus, John replied that “I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him…He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn 3:26-30)

John the Baptist was said to be “an insignificant man with an outstanding ministry.” He lived a short life and ministered to the people for a short while. He was not very welcoming to all who came to listen to him preach. When he saw the Pharisees and Sadducees, he called out to them. “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matt 3:7). Yet, he was more than just a mere prophet.

Matthew tells us that “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: not withstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matt 11:17)

What is God’s purpose for our lives his Christmas?

No one could imagine that God would use such a wild man to reveal the long-awaited Messiah to Israel. John’s purpose in life was to introduce Jesus Christ as God’s promise of salvation for Israel. Though his method of preaching was not always pleasing to his listeners, yet his message impacted many lives. He may not have been the best preacher, but he attracted many followers. And he always pointed them to Jesus.

This Christmas, let us consider what is God’s purpose for our lives? Are our lives spent only on gaining success in the world, or spending lavishly on luxurious good and services? This Christmas, is it again a time for drinking and merry-making, partying away through the night? We may not be prophets, but we are members and friends of Herald who can herald the glad tidings to those around us. John the Baptist was not the Messiah, but he pointed to the Messiah. We may not be John the Baptist, but we can share the message of the Messiah with our loved ones, friends and colleagues. We have been called to proclaim the birth of the Saviour to a world that is lost in darkness.

May the life of John the Baptist spur us to a life of action: to point others to Christ every day, wherever God has placed us in our homes, schools, offices, places of leisure and business.

Pastor Bob Phee

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