23 December 2016

Luke 1:57-66

“He began to speak, praising God” (v. 64)

Psalm: Psalm 110


Throughout the whole of this chapter we have seen how God makes promises, and people - Zechariah, Elizabeth and Mary - are challenged to trust in God, which they do. It's possible to trace a pattern in the chapter of promise, then fulfillment, then response. In today's passage we read both of the fulfillment of the promise and the beginning of the response.

Elizabeth safely gives birth to her son, and there is great joy in the community. It's worth remembering that we shouldn't take Elizabeth's safe delivery for granted. Many mothers did not survive childbirth, and Elizabeth's age increased the risks substantially. Once again God's faithfulness and protection are evident.

Zechariah and Elizabeth were both obedient to the requirements of their faith and so the child is brought to be circumcised on the eighth day (verse 59). This public event serves to demonstrate that they are also obedient to God, even when family and friends around them have different ideas. Sons were not necessarily named after their fathers or grandfathers in Judaism at this time, but given Zechariah's continued enforced silence and the particular blessing that this child represented, neighbours no doubt thought it fitting that he carry his father's name.

Elizabeth is adamant, and when Zechariah is consulted he too is clear. The child is to be called John, which means 'God is gracious'. This obedience has the effect of fulfilling the promise and command given to Zechariah by Gabriel (Luke 1:8-20) and so he regains his speech. His first words, in response, are praise to God.

To Ponder

  • At the centre of this story is the obedient naming of the child as John - God is gracious. Reflect on how you can be alert to God's grace today.
  • Luke's Gospel is clear in this story that God is at work and the people in the community around recognise that something amazing is happening. How amazed are you by the way God works? And are your neighbours too?

Bible notes author

The Revd Donald Ker

Donald Ker is a supernumerary minister in the Methodist Church in Ireland. As well as serving as a circuit minister in Bray Co Wicklow and as Superintendent Minister at Belfast Central Mission, he has been General Secretary of the Methodist Church in Ireland and its President in 2009/2010.