The Sermon on the Nativity of John the Baptist

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." (Matthew, 3:2)

Dear brothers and sisters of holy Prophet John, the Baptizer of God, whose memory the Holy Church is celebrating today. Several times a year the Holy Church honors the memory of this great saint. Every Tuesday is the day of his honor as well.  Today we all gathered in this church to glorify the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. “The woman who had been barren becomes fertile and gives birth today to the Forerunner of Christ. He is the greatest and last of the prophets, for standing in the waters of the Jordon River, he placed his hands on Christ whom all the prophets had announced, and in so doing he became a prophet himself, a preacher and a forerunner of the Word of God” (The Nativity of John the Baptist Kontakion, tone 3). The birth of a righteous person is always a God’s grace, as these people are holding this world up. And John the Baptist is one of the greatest preachers and that is why even our Lord Jesus Christ once said: “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew, 11:11). Today we will pay special attention to the life of this great saint and ensure that grace is sent to us through such holy people.

The Holy Gospel tells us that the birth of John the Baptist was already quite unusual and was accompanied by miracles. Archangel Gabriel had told of the birth of the Holy Prophet through the elderly parents: Zachary and Elisabeth. And so the forerunner was born, and priest Zachary became free from muteness, which had been imposed on him for his disbelief.  So the Precursor was born, and Elisabeth was happy, as she became free from the burden of childlessness. John did not live with his parents for long. Pious Zachary - his father - was killed in the temple, pious Elisabeth – his mother – had to hide in the desert to save the child from the murderers of King Herod, and she died soon as well. We do not know anything about the childhood of John the Baptist as the Holy Scripture tells nothing about it. Saint John Chrysostom says: “Don’t ask me how John was living during winter and during heat in the desert”. But then he answers: “He was there as if he was in heaven”.

With God’s help the child was growing and his spirit was fostering. He was preparing for the greatest service – he has to prepare people for the coming of Messiah, the Savior of the world.

He spent 30 years in the desert. He wore clothes made of camel’s hair and ate only wild honey and locusts. But when the time came, Saint John the Baptist left the desert and came to the bank of the river Jordan.The voice of the preacher proclaimed: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near”. He was preparing the sons of Israel for acceptance of the Savior, asking them to repent and baptizing them in the waters of Jordan. 

Standing on the border of two testaments, he seems to see nothing more except for the sins of humanity, in which the entire world was sinking, and the Lamb of God, who will free the world from these sins. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near”, – proclaimed he. His commanding appeal was not futile. People striving to cleanse themselves from sin and to be baptized in Jordan, were flocking to him from every corner of Judea.

Dear brothers and sisters, the saving force of that repenting sermon was strong even after the coming of Christ. He started to preach with the same words: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near”.

Repentance and faith are the two things we need to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Tears of repentance are the gracious rain that can wash any blot of our souls and allows us to feel God’s grace.

That is why this appeal to repent, to make amends, and to cleanse ourselves from sin means much for us today. Saint John the Baptist appeals to us even today, as he did once to the people of Israel: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near”. “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew, 3:8).

Dear brothers and sisters, we must spiritually return to John’s desert as often as possible, and let us try to honor the feat and his saintly image. Let us praythat he shows us the way to God, as he has shown it the people of Judea. And may the Lord help us clear our souls from sin, as that is His will, with the help of the Mother of God, Saint John the Baptist, and all the saints standing near the Throne of God and praying for our souls to be saved.


By Mitropolitan Simeon (Novikov) of Ryazan and Kasimov

Translated from: http://azbyka.ru/days/p-slovo-na-rozhdestvo-ioanna-predtechi