John's birthday celebration today is midway between Jesus' birthdays last and next Christmas. In our culture, when we think of Christmas and birthdays, we think of presents. Today the Lord wishes to give us birthday presents through John the Baptizer, for on his birthday we, rather than he, receive presents.
The first present the Lord gives us today is what John called the "baptism of repentance" (Acts 13:24). This is not a superficial interest in changing a little but a deep, heart-wrenching, burning, life-changing repentance. We are naturally afraid to open this gift, but the Lord insists that we open it before any others.
If we accept God's grace to open this first gift and to be immersed in repentance, then we can open the second gift, marked "baptism in the Spirit" (see Mk 1:8). This gift is the ultimate gift, our Baptisms, and today we are presented with the opportunity to renew our Baptisms. Then, immersed in the Spirit, the fear of the Lord comes upon us (see Lk 1:65), and our tongues are loosed (see Lk 1:64) to freely, boldly, and publicly proclaim that Jesus is Lord (see Rm 10:9).
Without opening these two gifts of two baptisms, we are tongue-tied regarding Jesus and are dumbfounded, that is, found to be dumb, in speaking of Jesus. Because we are created and re-created to be Jesus' witnesses (see Acts 1:8), we must open our presents today or miss the meaning of life.
Open your presents. Make this a happy birthday.