In Alice in Wonderland there is the character of the evil queen of hearts. A woman small in stature and lacking in kindness, she had an oversized head. Thus, when anyone upset or offended her, she would yell "Off with their head!"
Today we have the story of a man who offended and upset another queen, Herodius, with his confrontational preaching. John the Baptist spoke the word of God to the king, reminding him of the immoral union that he had with his queen. Herod was intrigued but threatened. Herodius was livid. The story tells us that in his passion (lust) the king promised "anything" to the daughter of his wife after her performance. Mom told her to tell the king "Off with his head!" regarding John. And thus we have the passion (martyrdom - beheading) of John the Baptist. He lost his head because he was not prudent, because he would or could not compromise his and God's position, because he could not keep quiet. He held that the truth would set you free, and his freedom was from the injustice of this world. He became a man of conviction who was willing to lay it all on the line for the sake of truth.
John, the cousin of Jesus, the Precursor of Jesus, the baptizer of many including the Author of baptism, would go ahead of his Lord, both in birth and in death. The Collect prayer for the day asks the Lord that "we, too, may fight hard for the confession of what you teach." This feast has had a name change in the new translation - from the Martyrdom of John the Baptist to the Passion of Saint John the Baptist. Having spent nearly fifteen years in a parish under John the Baptist's patronage, I wish all of my friends in Scottdale the very best on this, their second feast day of the year.