John is revered by Christians as the forerunner of Christ, and also as a prophet by Muslims who know him as Yahya.
Outline script for assembly leaders
Gossip about him was to be heard in all the towns. Out in the desert, some way from Jerusalem and near the River Jordan, it seemed there was a weird man.
He was dressed in a tunic made out of camel's hair and, according to the gossip, was living on honey and flying insects called locusts which are carried by the wind but settle in huge swarms from time to time.
When people went out to see him, they found he looked how they imagined the prophets had looked in olden times and wondered if he might be "the promised one" or Messiah that God had said would one day save the Jewish people from their troubles - especially from the Romans who now ruled their land.
But this man (who was called John) didn't act like a revolutionary leader.
He was bathing or baptising people in the Jordan, as a sign their sins were forgiven.
When John realised they were wondering if he was the Messiah, he immediately denied it. "I baptise you with water but someone is coming who is much greater than I am. I'm not good enough even to undo his sandals. He will baptise you with God's Holy Spirit."
That man was his cousin, Jesus, who also came to be baptised in the Jordan at the start of his own ministry. After John had baptised him, John continued to preach and began criticising the local puppet ruler, King Herod Antipas (son of the Herod who had tried to kill the baby Jesus).
Eventually Herod's daughter, Salome, arranged for John to be beheaded.
John is remembered almost exactly six months before Christmas because he was six months older than Jesus.
Adapt the Bible story of John as a reading for several voices (his mother Elizabeth, Herod, Herodias, Salome, the crowds, etc) or re-tell the story in picture strip or dramatic form.
The story of his birth is in Luke's Gospel chapter 1, his preaching is described in Matthew 3, Mark 1 and Luke 3; his imprisonment in Luke 3 and his beheading in Matthew 14 and Mark 6.
For a detailed biography, go to www.reonline.org.uk and search for "John Baptist".