[Theme of a slide presentation at Nelson-Atkins Museum]

At 2 p.m. Sunday Father Paul Turner will give a slide presentation on John the Baptist in the Atkins Auditorium at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Admission is free through the east door of the gallery. Turner, pastor of St. John Francis Regis Catholic Church, explains the theme of his talk:

Every year as Christians prepare to celebrate Christmas, one of the biblical figures they hear most about is John the Baptist. John's command, "Prepare the way of the Lord" (Luke 3:4 and borrowed from Isaiah 40:3), still strikes the heart of all Christian disciples.

John is an important figure for Advent because he himself prepared the way for Jesus in two important manners. He was a spiritual leader who gathered a band of disciples, and he suffered martyrdom. In both life and in death, John foreshadowed the coming of Christ.

John the Baptist appears frequently in Christian art either as a solo figure or in groups of saints. His image adorns many baptisteries because he used a pre-Christian form of baptism to lead followers into conversion. Whether depicted as a child or an adult, he often carries a cruciform staff that ominously reminds the viewer of suffering.

The brooding image of "St. John the Baptist" by Caravaggio especially captures his melancholy message.

Although the message of Christmas is unbounded joy due to the birth of a savior, the message of John the Baptist reminds the Christian of the sadness of human life that the savior came to lift. The artistic depictions of John the Baptist reassures the believer that God understands human suffering, and prepares the believer to receive the joyful news of salvation in the birth of Jesus Christ.

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