12th Day of Advent
57Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” 61And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” 62And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. 64And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God.
67And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
68“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
69and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
70as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
72to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
78because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
79to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Social media has given a voice to untold millions who never before had a meaningful platform by which to express their opinions. The results, unfortunately, have been decidedly mixed. As many an exasperated Facebook user can testify, not all of those opinions are worth the space they take up on our screens. The old saying, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt” might need to be revived.
For nine long months Zachariah had been compelled to remain silent. As a fellow clergyman, I can certainly sympathize with how tough that must have been! To make matters worse, he definitely had something worth saying and he was desperate to share it. A visit from an angel? The miraculous pregnancy of his beloved wife in their old age? The divine assurance that the son she was carrying would become a mighty prophet!?! But due to his momentary lapse of faith, he was obliged to keep his thoughts to himself. At best he was reduced to laboriously scratching out words on a wax writing tablet. He’d used it to explain to Elizabeth that her miraculous pregnancy was a gift from God and that the baby in her womb was a boy who would become the very messenger of the Messiah. He’d let her know that an angel had instructed them that the boy was to be called John.
Now the baby was born at last!
But there was a growing commotion disturbing the solemnity of the moment. Busybody relatives and neighbors were hassling Elizabeth about naming the baby. Naming the baby was not done by committee. The village didn’t get to vote on it. It was the exclusive right of the father. In fact, by naming the child, the father proclaimed his legal responsibility over him. It was his public declaration of paternity. Everybody had assumed that this miraculous baby was going to be Zachariah, Jr. It was the perfect name for such an amazing occurrence and would forever honor the beloved old priest. But Elizabeth was adamant. “No; he shall be called John.” The “no” is emphatic in the Greek. No way! Absolutely not! So they appealed to Zachariah. Surely the old priest could talk sense to his wife. They broke out that well-used writing tablet.
“His name is John.” Notice, he didn’t write, “His name will be John.” or “We’re going to call him John.” He was John before he was conceived.
Now at long last Zachariah’s tongue was loosened and he burst into a prophetic psalm of praise that would have done David proud. He joyfully praised God and prophesied about John’s purpose— to prepare the way for the Messiah. John’s purpose— his life calling—was to “go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins…” (vs.76-77).
Zachariah’s prophecy ends with this in Luke 1:79, “ to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” John was born into a world that was cloaked in darkness. Filled with people who were separated from God and desperately lost. But John’s calling was to preach that their only hope was the coming Messiah who would bring true and lasting peace.
Questions to Ponder
- Reflect on how Jesus is our Peace. How does this transform the Christmas season?
- There are still so many people right here in our own city and communities who desperately need to know about the good news of Jesus. How can you share Christ’s peace and forgiveness with them this Advent season?