Luke 1: 57 – 66 (NLT)
“When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. 58 And when her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her.
59 When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60 But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!”
61 “What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.” 62 So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. 63 He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God.
65 Awe fell upon the whole neighbourhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. 66 Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.”
I am struck anew at all the miraculous events that surround Jesus’ birth. It’s not just the virgin birth of Jesus involving Mary; there were amazing events that showed God was at work in many places. We’ve already looked at Zechariah’s angelic visit and his reaction of disbelief that his wife could become pregnant in her old age. We’ve seen Elizabeth’s reaction to Mary when Mary arrived at her house. And, of course, we know about the angel’s visit with Mary. And there are many more exciting evens to come.
I love the account of John’s birth. First of all the neighbours and relatives are excited that the baby was born and all went well. I’m sure Elizabeth’s pregnancy was talked about around the town. Today we’d know a person of that age had seen a fertility specialist and was likely getting exceptional, expensive care; occasionally we hear about those stories in the news. I usually shake my head when I hear of a woman in her late fifties or early sixties giving birth – just the idea is incredibly tiring. So it would be a really big thing in that town back then, and they were genuinely excited for Elizabeth.
Then there’s the ‘argument’ about the baby’s name. To have a son after all these years and not name him after dad was quite a shock. But Zechariah confirms the baby’s name is John, and then is suddenly able to speak. Can you imagine the chatter in the community over that?
But what I really like are these verses: “Awe fell upon the whole neighbourhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.” The people around Elizabeth and Zechariah’s home knew that God was at work.
This story got me thinking. A baby’s birth helped people see God at work. Do I see God at work in the everyday stories of people around me? A few years ago, I was involved with the Downtown Windsor Community Collaborative led by Bob Cameron in their project to establish a home where women could find a safe place to live and get their lives back on track. A dilapidated ‘crack house’ was purchased by an investor friend of the DWCC, and renovations and decorating began by volunteers. No one had any money for all the repairs and furnishings needed, but many volunteers pitched in to help clean the place up. Gradually people donated money or supplies so the repairs and painting could be done. I helped to find furnishings and appliances for the house. Much to our amazement, we received everything we needed. But one of the biggest surprises was that all the furniture for the large living room area space matched even though it came from many sources. The colours, fabrics, and designs all went together. I had no idea that God cared about interior design! But I also noticed the effect it had on the people who volunteered and also the effect it had on the neighbours who were curious about the project. It wasn’t just me who was amazed at God at work; many others were as well.
God does that in so many little ways in our lives. We experience something that makes us stop and realize that God is at work. Perhaps you can think of a story you’ve heard, or experienced yourself, that made you realize that God is at work in your life or in the lives of those around you. Miracles still happen. We just need to stop and take it in. Just like the people in Elizabeth and Zechariah’s town, who didn’t know what the end might be or understand all the details. (“Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?”), we can see God at work and thank Him even though we don’t know the future or all the plans God has for us.
Our song for today is Joy to the World (Unspeakable Joy) by Chris Tomlin