The Birth of Saint John the Baptist
The biblical story of John, the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, begins even before his birth. His leaping in his mother’s womb is seen as a great alleluia in anticipation of the birth of his Redeemer and the good news of Jesus Christ is related in all four gospels as beginning with John as Christ’s forerunner. He seemed to have a predestined rôle akin to that of the Old Testament prophets, particularly in encouraging the people of God to live lives worthy of their calling and in imminent anticipation of the coming of the Anointed One. In the tradition of the early Fathers, John was seen as endowed with grace from before his birth, and consequently the Church has always kept the celebration of this day with greater solemnity than that of his death. EH
Ant. From my mother’s womb the called me by my name;*
and he made my mouth like unto a sharp sword;
he protected me in the shadow of his hand,
and he made me as his chosen arrow.
Ps. It is good to give thanks to the Lord, *
to make music to your name, O Most High,
to proclaim your loving mercy in the morning, *
and your truth in the watches of the night,
on the ten-stringed lyre and the lute, *
with the sound of song on the harp. Isaiah 49, Psalm 92
God of our salvation,
you straighten the winding ways of our hearts
and smooth the paths made rough by sin.
Keep our conduct blameless,
keep our hearts watchful in holiness,
and bring to perfection the good you have begun in us.
We ask this through him whose coming is certain,
whose day draws near;
your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen. BCW
O Lord, open my lips.
And my mouth will declare your praise.
Make haste, O God, to deliver me;
make haste to help me, O Lord.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Praise to you, O Christ, Alleluia!
HYMN: The Venerable Bede; trans. John Mason Neale
Tune: Vom Himmel hoch https://tinyurl.com/y9ycd9g4
1 The great forerunner of the morn,
the herald of the Word, is born;
and faithful hearts shall never fail
with thanks and praise his light to hail.
2 With heavenly message Gabriel came,
that John should be that herald’s name,
and with prophetic utterance told
his actions great and manifold.
3 His mighty deeds exalt his fame
to greater than a prophet’s name.
Of woman-born shall never be
a greater prophet than was he.
4 To God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Spirit, Three in One,
praise, honour, might, and glory be
from age to age eternally.
For psalms in contemporary language, https://tinyurl.com/y9tjh7rk
Psalm 119:1-32 (Anglican Chant: https://tinyurl.com/y9wwyccr)
1 Blessed are those that are undefiled in the way *
and walk in the law of the Lord.
2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies *
and seek him with their whole heart.
3 For they who do no wickedness *
walk in his ways.
4 Thou hast charged *
that we shall diligently keep thy commandments.
5 O that my ways were made so direct *
that I might keep thy statutes!
6 So shall I not be confounded *
while I have respect unto all thy commandments.
7 I will thank thee with an unfeigned heart *
when I shall have learned the judgements of thy righteousness.
8 I will keep thy ceremonies *
O forsake me not utterly.
9 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way *
even by ruling himself after thy word.
10 With my whole heart have I sought thee *
O let me not go wrong out of thy commandments.
11 Thy words have I hid within my heart *
that I should not sin against thee.
12 Blessed art thou, O Lord *
O teach me thy statutes.
13 With my lips have I been telling *
of all the judgements of thy mouth.
14 I have had as great delight in the way of thy testimonies *
as in all manner of riches.
15 I will talk of thy commandments *
and have respect unto thy ways.
16 My delight shall be in thy statutes *
and I will not forget thy word.
17 O do well unto thy servant *
that I may live, and keep thy word.
18 Open thou mine eyes *
that I may see the wondrous things of thy law.
19 I am a stranger upon earth *
O hide not thy commandments from me.
20 My soul breaketh out for the very fervent desire *
that it hath alway unto thy judgements.
21 Thou hast rebuked the proud *
and cursed are they that do err from thy commandments.
22 O turn from me shame and rebuke *
for I have kept thy testimonies.
23 Princes also did sit and speak against me *
but thy servant is occupied in thy statutes.
24 For thy testimonies are my delight *
and my counsellors.
25 My soul cleaveth to the dust *
O quicken thou me, according to thy word.
26 I have acknowledged my ways, and thou heardest me *
O teach me thy statutes.
27 Make me to understand the way of thy commandments *
and so shall I talk of thy wondrous works.
28 My soul melteth away for very heaviness *
comfort thou me according unto thy word.
29 Take from me the way of lying *
and cause thou me to make much of thy law.
30 I have chosen the way of truth *
and thy judgements have I laid before me.
31 I have stuck unto thy testimonies *
O Lord, confound me not.
32 I will run the way of thy commandments *
when thou hast set my heart at liberty.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son :
and to the Holy Ghost;
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be :
world without end. Amen.
you are just in all your ways
and your commandments are the greatest of treasures.
Give us understanding of your law
and direct us according to your will
that we may be faithful in serving you
for the sake of Jesus our Lord. Amen. BCW
THE WORD OF GOD
Reading: 1 Samuel 6:1-12
The ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines for seven months. Then the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, ‘What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us what we should send with it to its place.’ They said, ‘If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty, but by all means return him a guilt-offering. Then you will be healed and will be ransomed; will not his hand then turn from you?’ And they said, ‘What is the guilt-offering that we should return to him?’ They answered, ‘Five gold tumours and five gold mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines; for the same plague was upon all of you and upon your lords. So you must make images of your tumours and images of your mice that ravage the land, and give glory to the God of Israel; perhaps he will lighten his hand on you and your gods and your land. Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? After he had made fools of them, did they not let the people go, and they departed? Now then, get ready a new cart and two milch-cows that have never borne a yoke, and yoke the cows to the cart, but take their calves home, away from them. Take the ark of the Lord and place it on the cart, and put in a box at its side the figures of gold, which you are returning to him as a guilt-offering. Then send it off, and let it go on its way. And watch; if it goes up on the way to its own land, to Beth-shemesh, then it is he who has done us this great harm; but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that struck us; it happened to us by chance.’
The men did so; they took two milch-cows and yoked them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home. They put the ark of the Lord on the cart, and the box with the gold mice and the images of their tumours. The cows went straight in the direction of Beth-shemesh along one highway, lowing as they went; they turned neither to the right nor to the left, and the lords of the Philistines went after them as far as the border of Beth-shemesh.
HYMN: Christopher Idle © (Paraphrase of Psalm 95)
Tune: Fulda (Walton) https://tinyurl.com/y7f72n37
Come with all joy to sing to God
our saving rock, the living Lord;
in glad thanksgiving seek his face
with songs of victory and grace.
2. In holiness and light arrayed
above all gods that we have made,
he is the one almighty king,
and his the glory that we sing.
3. The earth is his from east to west,
from ocean floor to mountain crest;
he made the sea and formed the lands,
he shaped the islands by his hands.
4. Come near to worship! Come with faith,
bow down to God who gives us breath:
God is our shepherd, God alone;
we are his people, all his own.
5. But if you hear his voice today
do not reject what he will say;
when Israel wandered from God’s path
they suffered forty years of wrath.
6. That generation went astray;
they did not want to know his way:
they put their Saviour to the test,
and saw his power, but lost their rest.
Reading: Acts 13.14b–26
And on the sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading of the law and the prophets, the officials of the synagogue sent them a message, saying, ‘Brothers, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, give it.’ So Paul stood up and with a gesture began to speak:
‘You Israelites, and others who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. For about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. After he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance for about four hundred and fifty years. After that he gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. Then they asked for a king; and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. When he had removed him, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, “I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.” Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Saviour, Jesus, as he promised; before his coming John had already proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his work, he said, “What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet.”
‘My brothers, you descendants of Abraham’s family, and others who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent.’
HYMN: Bob Dufford ©
Ev’ry valley shall be exalted
and ev’ry hill made low.
And all God’s people shall see together
the glory of the Lord.
1 A voice cries out in the wilderness,
“Prepare the way of the Lord.
Make straight in the desert a highway,
a highway for our God.” [Refrain]
2 Comfort all my people.
The time for war is gone.
The blind shall see, the deaf shall hear,
the lame shall leap for joy. [Refrain]
3 Stand upon the mountaintop.
O lift your voice to the world.
Sing joyfully, Jerusalem:
“Behold, behold your God.” [Refrain]
Reading: Luke 1.57–80
Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.
On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, ‘No; he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘None of your relatives has this name.’ Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbours, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, ‘What then will this child become?’ For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.
Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:
‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favourably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty saviour for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.’
The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.
CANTICLE Luke 1:67-80
(Cyprian Consiglio https://tinyurl.com/ya8y3kqs)
Ant. Blest be the Lord God of Israel; *
who has come to his people and set them free.
God has raiséd up a Savior strong and proud,
born of his servant David.
And through holy prophets God has promised from of old,
to save us from all our foes, from the hands of all who hate us. Ant.
God promised to show mercy to our ancestors
to remember the covenant.
This was the oath sworn to father Abraham,
to set us free from our enemies’ hands,
free to worship God without fear, *
holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life. Ant.
You, little child, are the prophet of the Lord,
you will go before the Lord to prepare the way,
To give the people knowledge of salvation
by forgiveness of their sins.
In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high breaks upon us,
to shine on us who dwell in the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet on the way of peace. Ant.
THE PRAYERS © Joe Milner, liturgy.slu.edu
For the Church: that our words and deeds may give witness to Christ and be an invitation to others to meet Christ who leads us to life
For the grace to announce Good News: that we may courageously and faithfully proclaim God’s savings deeds and gift of freedom
For a recognition of God’s call in our lives: that we may hear and assent to God who has called us from our mother’s womb into life to love and serve God and our neighbors
For all who exercise leadership: that they may be guided by John’s teaching and allow themselves to decrease so that God’s work may increase
For all who are called to prophetic ministry: that God will give them courage and insight as they seek to announce the truth and awake a slumbering society
For a greater awareness of our gifts: that we may recognize the gifts which God has given us and develop them so that we may serve God more faithfully
For all who find themselves in desperate situations: that the Spirit of God will fill their hearts and help them realize more deeply that nothing is impossible for God
For all who yearn to be parents: that God will hear their desire and bless them with the gift of life
For all who are pregnant: that God will bless the life they carry and protect it from all harm
For all who are suffering from the power of nature, particularly those who are facing flooding, drought, or wildfires: that God will ease their suffering, give them courage and speed the assistance which they need
For all who are serving in the military: that God will preserve them from harm and help them to stay connected and committed to their families
For peace: that the Spirit of God will lead all human hearts to turn from violence and work for reconciliation and the healing of the human family
Setting: Sanford Dole https://tinyurl.com/y7ldq7h5
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your Name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today the bread of life;
and forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours,
now and for ever. Amen.
by whose providence your servant John the Baptist
was wonderfully born,
and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Saviour
by the preaching of repentance:
lead us to repent according to his preaching
and, after his example,
constantly to speak the truth,
boldly to rebuke vice,
and patiently to suffer for the truth’s sake;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen. EH
Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen. 2 Cor. 13:14
BCW Book of Common Worship, Presbyterian Church U.S.A., 1993.
EH Exciting Holiness, Ed. Brother Tristram SSF © European Province of the Society of Saint Francis, 1997
RCLP Revised Common Lectionary Prayers. © 2002 Consultation on Common Texts admin. Augsburg Fortress.
WS2 Worship Sourcebook, 2nd Edition, © 2013, Faith Alive Christian Resources
DL © Daniel Lawson; used with permission.
1 Adam Bartlett, Simple English Propers; audio from https://musicasacra.com/additional-publications/sep-practice-videos/ ©
The three main scripture readings are from the The New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Edition, The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The psalms are from The Book of Common Prayer (1662).
Musical links are usually either to artists’ albums posted on Spotify or to recordings made available at smallchurchmusic.com. Audio stripped from YouTube videos is footnoted accordingly above.
Compilation © 2020 Stephen T. Benner. All links worked at the time they were created, but I cannot accept responsibility for their content or any damage resulting from their use. The linked content is under the control of the respective content creators and is subject to change at any time. Any copyright texts included in this compilation are provided for non-commercial purposes related to study or worship. Please contact the respective copyright holders for permission to use the texts in other contexts.