Is it Important to Remember John the Baptist at Christmas?

John the Baptist is important and is worth remembering. However, remembering John should never take the place of remembering Jesus at Christmas time.

Contributing Writer
Published Mar 29, 2021
Is it Important to Remember John the Baptist at Christmas?

John the Baptist is a pivotal prophet whose story is as relevant for us today as it was for early believers. Just as the Messiah’s coming was foretold by the Old Testament prophets, so was the coming of a prophet who would “prepare the way of the Lord.” John is that prophet.

Of course, at Christmas, our focus is on the birth of Christ, as it should be, but it’s wonderfully instructive to also include a remembrance of John the Baptist at this time since we also have a role in “preparing the way of the Lord” in the hearts of those to whom we are witnesses of the Gospel.

The First Miracle Birth

Jesus’ virgin birth was foretold by Isaiah and recorded in Isaiah 7:14. Luke 1:26-38 tells of Mary’s visitation by the angel Gabriel announcing to her that she is God’s choice to give birth to the Messiah. This had to have been an overwhelming experience for the young woman. God, in His kind provision, has the angel send Mary to visit her relative, an older woman named Elizabeth, who has also conceived a miraculous child whose birth was foretold. How thoughtful of God to allow Mary this comforting mentor.

Earlier in Luke 1, we meet Zechariah and Elizabeth. Luke reports “In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years” Luke 1:5-7 ESV.

From this we know, Elizabeth is “advanced in years” at the time of John’s conception and she’s been barren all her life. This couple had likely resolved themselves to the apparent will of the Lord that they remain childless. This unexpected announcement that they would have a son would be miraculous and joyous enough, but the angel also tells them, “And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” Luke 1:16-17.

Elizabeth, having spent years in barrenness watching other women give birth, experiencing life as a social outsider, would have a special appreciation for the isolation and pain Mary was about to experience as a young woman with an unconventional pregnancy. This combined with her maturity and her experience with an angelic visitor, made her a specially designed resource for the mother of our Lord.

The child Elizabeth’s carrying, John will be the prophet foretold in both Isaiah (Isaiah 40:3) and in Malachi (Malachi 3:1). He will be a “preparer of ways” and “a voice crying in the wilderness.” This is John. He will come “in the spirit of Elijah” as foretold in Malachi 4:5 and will preach repentance. John’s miraculous birth is perfect in its timing, coming just six months prior to the birth of Christ. And John’s ministry will, indeed, prepare the way for Jesus’ time of active teaching and preaching. In fact, from within the womb, the Holy Spirit prompts John and his mother Elizabeth, to confirm that Mary does, indeed, carry the Messiah.

Luke 1: 41-45 reads, “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

This passage is a powerful testimony about life and personhood beginning in the womb! Here, the prophet begins his ministry even prior to his birth.

The Importance of John the Baptist

John the Baptist is important because he is the transitional prophet from the Old Testament to the New. His importance is emphasized in that he appears in all four gospels and Paul refers to John’s ministry in Acts 19:4. Jesus referenced John as great in Matthew 11:11 ESV “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

There was no one greater than John because he would be the last of the prophets looking forward to the coming Messiah. His ministry prefaced the ushering in of the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ. Still, even “the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” because John would die still looking forward to the work of Christ on the cross. Those of us born following the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ should consider ourselves blessed from birth just in the timing of our lives!

Jesus further elevates John by comparing him to Elijah in Matthew 11:13-14 ESV “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.” There is no greater comparison for a prophet. John is the ultimate in a long line of prophets leading to this moment, the arrival of Jesus incarnate, and he announces and confirms that Jesus is, indeed, the Lamb of God. He has the honor of baptizing our Lord, Jesus, at the genesis of His earthly ministry.

John’s death, at the command of King Herod, served to illustrate how evil men had become and how willing they were to serve their own sinful desires rather than respond to God’s call to repentance. In Matthew 14, we learn that John has pointed out in his preaching that it wasn’t lawful for King Herod to sleep with Herodias, wife of his brother Philip. Because of this, Herod has John imprisoned. He wanted to kill him outright, but Herod knew John was respected by the people as a prophet and feared their reaction.

He finds his opportunity, however, when Herodias’ daughter, Salome, dances for him on his birthday. Her dance is so pleasing, he vows to reward her with anything she requests. Prompted by Herodias, she requests the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Of all they could have desired or requested, what they choose is to silence the voice that proclaims their sin. John is beheaded and the vow fulfilled. John serves as a sober warning to us all that while there will be some who welcome the gospel and find salvation for their souls, there are others who will not only reject the message but seek to silence the messenger, sometimes by lethal means.

John is also a role model for us that as valued as we are by Christ, Jesus is what people need. In the Gospel of John, we see through John the Baptist that it’s just as important for us to know what we’re NOT as to know what we are. When the religious leaders ask John if he is the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet, he responds that he is not. In fact, he answers in great humility that he is “a voice crying in the wilderness” John 1:23 ESV. He goes on in John 3 to compare himself to the “friend of the bridegroom” who is full of joy when the bridegroom comes. “He must increase, but I must decrease” John 3:30 ESV is a statement that could be a guide for many of us in the way we approach ministry and life in Christ.

How to Remember John the Baptist This Christmas

Remembering John the Baptist at Christmas can take some simple forms:

Reread his story and the prophecies concerning his coming at the start of Advent. Meditate on the humility he demonstrated in carrying out his calling in Christ.

Listen to Handel’s Messiah’s opening movement titled “Comfort Ye” taken from Isaiah and ask God to help you understand the value and importance of this “voice of one crying in the wilderness.”

Recommit to being a voice who prepares the way for the Lord in the lives of people you know who have yet to commit their lives to Christ. Pray for their salvation. Schedule conversations to reconnect and invite them into the truth being celebrated in the season. Consider ways your church can outreach the community and speak out into the wilderness of our times.

Create an ornament to acknowledge the special role God gave Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist in the Christmas story. Read their story to your family as you place this ornament among your decorations. Let it remind all that God is ever watchful. That He sees every act of faithfulness. That unanswered prayers are not unheard prayers, but the answers may be waiting for the fullness of time.

John’s voice continues to testify to Jesus as the Lamb of God in our times. Reconnecting with his story, his birth, his ministry, his words, and his death can inspire a new generation to speak the truth in our times.

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/udra

Lori Stanley RoeleveldLori Stanley Roeleveld is a blogger, speaker, coach, and disturber of hobbits. She’s authored six encouraging, unsettling books, including Running from a Crazy Man, The Art of Hard Conversations, and Graceful Influence: Making a Lasting Impact through Lesson from Women of the Bible. She speaks her mind at


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