The Birth of John the Baptist

Today's Bible reading: Luke 1:1-80

The announcement: “Here comes the king!” was not made with a trumpet fanfare … or by a decree of King Herod … or by the temple authorities.  It was sounded by a strange and lonely figure out in the wilderness.  God begins the next stage of His great plan, not with a show of worldly power and majesty … not with pomp and ceremony … but with the powerful voice of a new Elijah that we heard mentioned in both our Old Testament and Gospel readings.  After the silence of centuries, the age of prophecy has returned.

Only the Gospel according to St. Luke gives us the account of John's strange birth.  In the other three Gospels, John suddenly appears on the scene, just as unannounced as many of the Old Testament prophets.  Yet there is a good reason why we should note his birth.  In the first place, Elizabeth - the mother of the Baptizer - is barren.  Like Sarah and Abraham long ago, she and her husband - Zechariah - have no reason to expect a child.  As we have often seen together in Israel's past history, God begins a new stage of His plan without any human preconditions … just when it seems impossible!  Perhaps you’ve experienced this in your own life – just when it seems like things are at their darkest or have come to - what seems to be - a dead end … God casts His light, He opens a new door or blesses you with a new - and perhaps very different - opportunity.

Second, the angel appears to Zechariah in the temple – while he's carrying out his priestly duties.  It’s interesting for us to note that Luke's Gospel finishes with the disciples praising God in the temple.  God has been absent from His people before John's appearance.  But now He is about to speak to them with the clear voice of prophecy, which will lead people to a new song of praise.  A neat insight for us to consider: Does Zechariah's inability to speak until John's birth perhaps also hint at a new loosing of tongues for all people - including us - that we might be able to thank and praise God’s holy name?

Third, we know that John must be given a special name to mark his God-given role in God’s plan.  Contrary to everyone's expectations, he does not receive the family name.  Instead, he is named John, which literally means: “God has been gracious.”  John the Baptist represents a break with the past – a new beginning.

Prayer: Blessed are You, O Lord, the God of Israel, for You have visited and redeemed Your people and raised up a horn of salvation for us.  You have assured us that our final day of salvation will some day be completed, when Christ returns.  Therefore, come, Lord Jesus.  Come quickly. Amen.