May God bless all our Veterans today! Let us not forget to thank them, and remember them, for their service.
56 And Mary remained with her for about three months and then returned to her home.
57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58Her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.
59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. 60But his mother said, ‘No; he is to be called John.’ 61They said to her, ‘None of your relatives has this name.’ 62Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. 63He asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And all of them were amazed. 64Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65Fear came over all their neighbours, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. 66All who heard them pondered them and said, ‘What then will this child become?’ For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.
Mary stayed and helped Elizabeth until nearly time for her baby to be born, but then Mary returned to Nazareth. Some believe that Joseph had lived in Bethlehem at the time, and that perhaps she also came to Ein Karem to talk with him (Bethlehem is about 3 miles from there). Perhaps Joseph took her back to Nazareth himself. That, of course, is pure speculation!
But Elizabeth came to term, and the baby was born, and it was a boy. All the neighborhood heard of how the Lord had blessed Elizabeth, and they rejoiced with her! Did you ever notice that little sentence? I hadn’t, but it struck me as I read this, how important it is for the community to rejoice with us in our joy, as well as to grieve with us in our sorrow. When something wonderful happens, don’t you want to tell someone, so that they can share your happiness?
On the 8th day they came to circumcise the baby – this was an important religious ceremony, and his father should have been involved. But now the community that had been so supportive ignores both the father and the mother, and intends to proceed with the ceremony without the father, themselves selecting a name for the child – have they come to think of Zechariah as unable to participate? Do we do that – talk over or ignore someone we think of as disabled?And when Elizabeth intervenes, saying, “No! His name is John,” they are aghast – there has been no one in his or her family by that name! Now they remember Zechariah, and they make signs to him (he can hear perfectly well!) to ask what the child’s name should be. Zechariah asks for writing tools and is given a tablet. This would not have been a paper tablet, as we think of, and papyrus was far too expensive in those days to waste writing simple household items. There would, however, have been a small rectangle of still soft clay and a stylus, used for teaching children, making lists, writing notes, even for marketplace exchanges. It could be “wiped clean” like a white-board or black-board by smoothing out the clay. These sorts of details I find interesting – forgive my diversion! It was what Zechariah wrote that was incredible, “His name is John.” And they were all amazed!
But immediately, Zechariah was able to speak. The words of the angel had come to pass, and Zechariah praised God! The neighbors were all frightened, and the news of this miracle spread throughout the region. Everyone wondered, “What then will this child become?” For it was obvious to all that the hand of the Lord was with him.
Picture is the traditional birthplace of John the Baptist, in the Church of John the Baptist in Ein Karem.