"Now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light." So St. Paul wrote in his epistle to the Romans, and so the Holy Forerunner proclaims at the beginning of his ministry, "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!" Indeed, St. John was "a voice crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord!"
There are those who complete the whole course of this earthly life without having once awakened from the deep slumber of indifference and self-chosen ignorance concerning the illumining grace of God that guides us along the Path of Salvation towards the inexpressible glory of God's heavenly Kingdom. For truly those who dwelt in the shadows of darkness and ultimate despair and held in thrall by the demonic powers that rule this world of sin and death beheld a great light when He Who enlightens every soul that comes into this world took flesh from the pure blood of a Virgin--trampling down death by death, and bestowing life upon those in the tombs.
The Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John was born in a miraculous manner to a barren mother well past the age of childbearing in order to bear witness to this Light, to prepare the hearts of the people of Israel that they may "receive the King of all Who comes invisibly upheld by the angelic hosts." For though St. John was not himself the long-awaited Messiah, he was indeed the prophet appointed by God to bear witness to the Light of the World. He surely did baptize with water unto repentance, but our Lord baptized with water and the Spirit--that the sons and daughters of men might be granted the gift of eternal life.
The Baptist truly is the greatest of those born of woman--yet he himself confesses that he is not worthy to unloose our Lord's sandals. Nor did he ever exalt himself above his God appointed role, nor did he seek to draw attention to himself and his exalted role in the economy of salvation. He proclaimed, on the contrary, that "I must decrease that He may increase."
Scripture confirms that St. John was "filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb," consecrated by God to "go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah." Nevertheless, he sought for himself neither the glory of God nor the praise of men, but only that he might bear faithful witness even unto the end to One incomparably greater than himself. May God by His grace strengthen us all, that we may ever strive to do likewise.