16th December

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 set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbours were 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. (Luke 1:62-66)

Elizabeth was sure that the child should be called John; but the casting vote lay with Zechariah, who was still deaf and dumb. If, earlier, Zechariah inaugurated Christmas charades (v.22), here he plays the first game of Pictionary, although he cheats a bit by scribing his verdict! We can let him off though; what he writes is so significant and for those congregated, scarcely believable: “His name is John” (v.63). Just as Elizabeth had said! Zechariah’s waiting is now finally over; he immediately regains his voice. His first reaction, remarkably and inspirationally, is to praise God (v.64). Given what he has been through, we might forgive him for coming out with: “What was all that about?” But, instead, he immediately turns to praise. This makes me think: when times of waiting come to a good end, do I give thanks to God for the outcome? I know I am sometimes tempted to spend too long dwelling on the past or move on too quickly to the next thing, without being thankful for the present, as Zechariah is here.

The community’s reaction is one of awe, reverence (phobos; cf. v.50) at what has happened before their eyes (v.65). Soon the news spreads out further into the surrounding towns and villages. The focus remains on the child though; the community wonder about this child’s identity, given that the hand of the Lord is clearly on him (v.66), even if circumstances was unusual and, at times, difficult.

Some years later, the early believers were going through a difficult patch following persecution; but some of the believers went to Antioch to preach the good news there (Acts 11:20). There, too, “the Lord’s hand was with them” (Acts 11:21). The believers were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26) and despite times of difficulty, confusion, and disobedience, God has not given up on us, His church; His hand remains with her. John would become like Christ’s best man; the church would become Christ’s bride.

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