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His Name is John

It is Thursday, the 12 day of Advent.  As I continue to read through the beginning of Luke's Gospel the story goes back to Zechariah and Elizabeth as the baby Elizabeth is carrying is finally born.

Luke 1:57-66
57  When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son.
58  Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
59  On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah,
60  but his mother spoke up and said, "No! He is to be called John."
61  They said to her, "There is no one among your relatives who has that name."
62  Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child.
63  He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone's astonishment he wrote, "His name is John."
64  Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God.
65  The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things.
66  Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, "What then is this child going to be?" For the Lord's hand was with him.

  For the last 9-10 months Zechariah has been "mute"...not just that he didn't speak, or that he was quiet, but he was "mute"... he couldn't speak.  Do you remember why?  It was the angel Gabriel - who I imagine looked like Gandalf as he stood over Bilbo - who rebuked his stubbornness and told him:

Luke 1:19-20
19  The angel answered, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.
20  And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time."

The angel Gabriel had said that all would happen "at the proper time".  Then later Luke brings us  back to this time.  Elizabeth gives birth to her son, and everyone near and far, neighbors and relatives all come to see the new born baby.  The question they all ask is what we all ask when we hear of a new born baby:  "What will they name him?"
It is the one thing none of us have control of - our name.  When I was a young boy I hated my name.  No one else was named Elliott, and as a young kid standing out as different from others is always a negative.  My brother and I were named after the doctor that delivered us - Dr. Edward Samuel Elliott.  I remember asking my Mom, "Why didn't you name me Samuel?"  As an adult I love my name.  For one thing, whenever I hear it said, I know with a fair amount of certainty that it is me they are talking to!

Elizabeth is the one who speaks up because at this point Zechariah still cannot speak.  "His name is John".  Obviously Elizabeth didn't get that name on her own, she must have gotten this from Zechariah as he returned home, even though he had to write it out.  The relatives, neighbors were incredulous - no one in your family has that name; and they make signs to Zechariah to ask him to overrule Elizabeth.  Zechariah takes the writing tablet and reaffirms it: "His name is John", and immediately his mouth and tongue are free and he can once again speak.

His name is John which means "Jehovah is Gracious".  Zechariah began the Advent story, and he was a faithful priest who was afraid and full of doubt.  I think of that even in relation to my own life.  I would like to think I have tried to be faithful, but I have those same times of fear and doubt.  They seem to be fairly common human traits.
What we must remember is that Jehovah is Gracious.
All the things God does is gracious.  He is God of purpose, and He works His will in amazing, sometimes surprising and miraculous ways; but always with this Grace in mind.



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