Fr Paul Gooley reads from the Gospel of Luke (1: 5-25) in which the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah and Elizabeth is foretold. With this reading from Luke’s Gospel, Fr Paul says, we begin a continuous series of Lukan readings which will carry us right up to Christmas Eve, enabling us to share in the experiences which prepared for the birth of Jesus. The story of a son to Zechariah tells us that John the Baptist’s birth was by the special intervention of God, for John’s mother, we are told in the Gospel, was barren. But more specifically, the comparison between Zechariah and Mary is for the sake of the comparison of John the Baptist and Jesus. There are the two annunciations, the two births, the two Canticles, the two circumcisions and glimpses of the two flourishing childhoods. The families intertwine on occasion, as at the Visitation. On each occasion the story of John is wonderful, but only to be trumped by the story of Jesus, which is more wonderful still. So, John will be great in the sight of the Lord, but Jesus will be simply great – without qualification – and will reign on the throne of David for ever. At the birth of John there is great joy of all the neighbours, while at the birth of Jesus there is great joy and singing in heaven. The greatest difference of all, of course, is that while Zechariah is struck deaf and dumb for questioning the message, Mary is reassured that she will henceforth be called ‘Blessed among women.’ In closing, Fr Paul reminds us that the Advent season is a season of hope. For those who have hope there is new life.