Crowds always line up to see a new baby. In the days before mass entertainment, this may have been even more true. The community that had once whispered about what Zechariah and Elizabeth had done to merit God's disfavor now marvelled that a son had been mercifully born in their old age. After so many decades, the couple had an heir. Surely the firstborn and likely only child would be named after his father. But having many months to silently contemplate the words of the angel Gabriel, Zechariah instantly corrected his neighbors and family in obedience to the words spoken to him in the holy place of the temple.
Circumcision on the eighth day was a celebratory and holy affair - the sign of God's covenant with his people. The son had survived long enough to earn an official name and in a way his personhood. The age of the parents, the story of the angel, and even the naming of the child had tongues wagging all over the hill country. If God could move so strongly in the birth of this miracle child, surely great things were planned for his life.
The Hebrew name for John, Yôḥanan, means "Graced by Yahweh". John was graced not to serve as a priest like his father, but to survive in the wilderness bringing many to repentance and preparing the way for Jesus. Surely he grew up hearing that God had a great plan for his life. Surely his righteous parents steadfastly taught him the ways of God. And when the time came for him to fulfill his purpose he did so, even to death by beheading.
The gospel begins with ordinary people choosing to live lives of obedience to the father. What must happen before we are willing to believe and become what he would have us be? Need he strike us deaf and dumb for nine months like Zechariah or send us into nine months of seclusion like Elizabeth for us to take time to contemplate his will for our lives? Or can we find ways to unplug from our lives and plug in to God moving in the world around us? When God allows us to open our lips today, let our tongues be set free in praise of him!
In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
- Colossians 2:11-12
- Colossians 2:11-12