John the Baptist, the prophet and forerunner of Jesus, was the son of elderly parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, and was related to Jesus on his mother’s side. His birth is celebrated six months before Christmas Day, because, according to Luke, Elizabeth became pregnant six months before the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary.
Although John figures prominently in all four Gospel accounts, only Luke tells us of his birth. Zechariah, a priest of the Temple at Jerusalem was struck speechless because he doubted a vision foretelling John’s birth. When his speech was restored, Zechariah uttered a canticle of praise, the Benedictus, which is sung at Lauds.
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