“When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, ‘No! He is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘There is no one among your relatives who has that name.’ Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, ‘His name is John.’ Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, ‘What then is this child going to be?’ For the Lord’s hand was with him. His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.’ And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.” Luke 1:57-80
And so, Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s son was born. It was tradition to name a son after a relative. Names were passed down, not chosen from a book. Children were not named after a famous person, movie star, or because the parents liked the sound. Children were given a family name that linked the new with the old.
But this baby arrived and his mother declared his name. It would be John.
That wasn’t a family name. They didn’t know a John. The friends and family went so far as to challenge it. Why wasn’t he named after Zechariah? They had to find out.
Zechariah had been silent since Gabriel had appeared. Not one audible sound had come from him since that moment. But then he was asked this child’s name.
He wrote it down. It was written in ink but set in stone. His name was John.
When Gabriel had first given Zechariah the message, he had doubted. Because of his doubts he had been in silence since. But this time there were no doubts. He wrote it, and the moment he did, his voice returned and he spoke. What came out of his mouth? He blessed God and all who heard it were amazed.
Zechariah had been silent a little over nine months. God had been silent for over four hundred years. There would be silence no more.
John would be a voice crying out in the wilderness. He would be speaking from the very heart of God.