Today's Lectionary Text
Luke 1:57-66When 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.
The first award I think I ever won in my life was a total fluke.
I joined the Leavenworth High School newspaper staff as a senior because I wanted a class where I would get to write for fun. We had a new teacher that year, Mr. Dunlap. And he basically threw out the rules and let me into his class despite not taking any of the prerequisites. Late in the fall, we went to a regional competition at the University of Kansas. I competed in the sportwriting category. My friend, Chris, won third place, meaning he advanced to the state competition, and I thought that was really awesome. I don’t recall who won second, but when they announced my name as the first-place winner, I probably for the first time in my life didn’t have any words to express my feelings. I was stunned. It truly was unexpected. I just remember Mr. Dunlap kind of yelling at me to get moving toward the stage to pick up my award and me responding something like, “That can’t be right. I couldn’t have won.”
In part because of that experience, I really relate to poor Zechariah in this part of the Christmas story. He is a priest who gets the privilege of entering the Holy of Holies of the temple to burn incense, and while there he meets a messenger from God and is told he and his wife — both advanced in age — will have a son. They are to name him John.
Zechariah then does what I think I would be dumb enough to do in the presence of a messenger of God. He thought out loud, something to the tune of “How could this be? We’re both old and beyond child-bearing years.” His doubt prompts him to be stricken mute until the boy is born and at the ceremonial circumcision and naming ceremony at the age of 8 days.
To Zechariah’s credit, he shows incredible faith this time by writing that he is naming his son John, just as he was instructed to do.
For the record, I crashed and burned at the state writing competition. I didn’t even place. There was no trophy.
But Zechariah showed he was a champion of faith by doing what he was instructed and, apparently, raising his son in such a way that John would pave the way for the son of God to start His ministry on earth.
— Todd Seifert, director of communications
Prayer for Reflection
Loving God, we thank you for the ways you prepare us. Help us to be like Zechariah, who fulfilled your instructions and stayed true to his faith despite challenging circumstances. In the name of the one we celebrate this festive season, Amen.
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