John the Baptist was born into a priestly Jewish family several months before the birth of Jesus. Events of his life and teaching are known from accounts in all four Gospels and in the writings of the first century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.
Source: The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist | For All the Saints
Today is the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, which, because of its proximity to the Summer Solstice (June 21st), was celebrated as Midsummer’s Day through much of Christian Europe during the Middle Ages and beyond. Known as the “Forerunner” of Christ, and the last Prophet, John was the living link between the Old Testament and the New. As the linked post recounts,
“John the Baptist was born into a priestly Jewish family several months before the birth of Jesus. Events of his life and teaching are known from accounts in all four Gospels and in the writings of the first century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus. John’s birth was predicted miraculously to Zechariah and Elizabeth, as is recorded in the Gospel according to Saint Luke. At his birth the aged Zechariah sang the hymn of praise, the Benedictus, the traditional Gospel canticle at Morning Prayer (at Lauds in the medieval Daily Office).”
That great Gospel canticle here follows:
Benedictus. St. Luke i. 68.
BLESSED be the Lord God of Israel; * for he hath visited and redeemed his people;
And hath raised up a mighty salvation for us, * in the house of his servant David;
As he spake by the mouth of his holy Prophets, * which have been since the world began;
That we should be saved from our enemies, * and from the hand of all that hate us.
To perform the mercy promised to our forefathers, * and to remember his holy covenant;
To perform the oath which he sware to our forefather Abraham, * that he would give us;
That we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies * might serve him without fear;
In holiness and righteousness before him, * all the days of our life.
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;
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people * for the remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God; * whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us;
To give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, * and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Here are the Propers (Collect and Lessons) for St. John Baptist’s Day, from The Book of Common Prayer 1928:
ALMIGHTY God, by whose providence thy servant John Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Saviour by preaching repentance; Make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through† Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For the Epistle. Isa. xl. 1.
COMFORT ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight. and the rough places plain: and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
The Gospel. St. Luke i. 57.
ELISABETH’S full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her. And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. And they made signs to his father how he would have him called. And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed. and he spake, and praised God. And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judæa. And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him. And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. 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; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.
Nota Bene: I have just added a new top-level category, “Christian Commemorations.” This is the first entry therein, but many of my past posts (obviously, for The Anglophilic Anglican!) are focused on the Faith. Gradually I may have the opportunity to go back and mark them with this category, but for now, I’m sorry but you’ll have to look for them based on the tags!