15th December

57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbours 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.’ (Luke 1:57-61)

Elizabeth and Mary go their separate ways, but the time soon comes for Elizabeth to have her baby (v.57). The good news is celebrated with the community and presented from their perspective; they observe that the Lord, literally, “magnified his mercy towards her [Elizabeth]” (v.58). This is the second time Luke talks of magnifying. Although it is more likely Mary’s soul which magnifies the Lord in v.46, Elizabeth would no doubt have shared the same sentiment. When we honestly magnify the Lord, he will honour that: showing more of his mercy and revealing more of his love. It is encouraging that the community share Elizabeth’s joy. Here, we see the value of community for celebrating good times and, although not described here, navigating difficult times. The community’s joyous reaction suggests that they may well have shared Elizabeth’s pain, rather than stigmatising her barrenness.

Eight days pass and the time comes for the baby’s circumcision. As remains customary in many cultures today, preserving the father’s name was normal and expected, so it is unsurprising that the consensus is to call the baby Zechariah (v.59). Elizabeth, however, knows differently. We do not know precisely how, but Zechariah had been told to call the baby John (v.14), and this has also been communicated to Elizabeth: whether in writing by Zechariah or, perhaps, in a separate vision. She speaks up (v.60), but her community, probably including family, disagree with her because the name John is not in the family (v.61).

The situation is resolved (vv.62-63) but, here, Elizabeth’s prophetic insight is striking. There remains an important role in the church today for prophets to speak up (Ephesians 4:11) and challenge the norm, often to provide correctives. It is important to test and discern what God says to individuals within a community, but sometimes prophetic insights from God need to be shared, and acted upon. This shows that we are truly in step with God. We should encourage those whom we consider to be prophetically-gifted, but always consider that God can speak through any of us: even those we would not necessarily expect!

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