The Birth of John the Baptist
[An Ember Day]
The Lord, the most mighty God, has spoken and called the world from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth; our God comes and will not keep silence. Consuming fire goes out before him and a mighty tempest stirs about him. He calls the heaven above, and the earth, that he may judge his people:
‘Gather to me my faithful, who have sealed my covenant with sacrifice.’
Let the heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge. Hear, O my people, and I will speak:
‘I will testify against you, O Israel for I am God, your God. I will not reprove you for your sacrifices, for your burnt offerings are always before me. I will take no bull out of your house, nor he-goat out of your folds, For all the beasts of the forest are mine, the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains and the insect of the field is mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the whole world is mine and all that fills it. Do you think I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and fulfil your vows to God Most High.
Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall honour me.'
But to the wicked, says God:
‘Why do you recite my statutes and take my covenant upon your lips, since you refuse to be disciplined and have cast my words behind you?
When you saw a thief, you made friends with him and you threw in your lot with adulterers.
You have loosed your lips for evil and harnessed your tongue to deceit.
You sit and speak evil of your brother; you slander your own mother’s son.
These things have you done, and should I keep silence?
Did you think that I am even such a one as yourself?
But no, I must reprove you, and set before your eyes the things that you have done. You that forget God, consider this well, lest I tear you apart and there is none to deliver you.
Whoever offers me the sacrifice of thanksgiving honours me and to those who keep my way
will I show the salvation of God.’
O sing to the Lord a new song; sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful. ]
Let Israel rejoice in their maker; let the children of Zion be joyful in their king.
Let them praise his name in the dance; let them sing praise to him with timbrel and lyre. For the Lord has pleasure in his people and adorns the poor with salvation.
Let the faithful be joyful in glory; let them rejoice in their ranks, with the praises of God in their mouths and a two-edged sword in their hands; to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples; to bind their kings in chains and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute on them the judgement decreed: such honour have all his faithful servants.
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’
John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’
And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’
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.