December 13 - John is Born

Saturday, December 13, 2008

December 13 - John is Born - Luke 1:57-66

I grew up in small towns throughout Iowa. There wasn't much that happened, good or bad, that wasn't immediately known through the community. When I was born, my parents lived in a small town named Gravity, in Iowa. There were only 200 people that lived there. Imagine my mother's shock coming from Boston, Massachusetts to a little tiny town where everyone knew what was happening. There were no such things as locks on the parsonage doors and the women of the church believed quite seriously that the parsonage belonged to them and they could enter at any time, no matter what was happening.

I was born in 1959 and Gravity still had a local operator that connected all of the community's calls. She knew everything that was happening and probably listened in on most conversations. Mom and Dad went to Clarinda to the hospital and when I was born, the operator placed an all-city call. Every single telephone in the community of Gravity rang at the same time and the announcement was made that the preacher had a baby daughter. I suspect that was my 15 minutes of fame - all used up before I even knew what was happening to me.

Elizabeth's neighbors and relatives shared her joy in the birth of a son (Luke 1:58). I can imagine that the news of this spread like wildfire. Her home probably filled with people as the days progressed. Now, I know that I'm a bit of a cynic, but having that many people around just after a birth and this birth was happening to a much older woman, would have made me very cranky.

By the eighth day, it was time to name and circumcise the child. Genesis 17:12 and then again Leviticus 12:3 both tell of the command to circumcise boys by the eighth day. People were all around and being their ever-helpful selves. They were suggesting names and probably making it quite clear that she should name the boy after his father. When she told them what the child's name should be, these busy-bodies decided it wasn't enough, they needed to correct her and remind her (as if she had forgotten) that there was no one among the relatives with the name of John.

At this point I would have wanted to toss the lot from the house, but it got worse for Elizabeth. Since these people weren't going to believe her, they were going to frustrate Zechariah. He obviously could still not speak, and there is some implication that he couldn't hear either because they had to make signs to him asking him what HE thought they should name the child.

He asked for a writing tablet. Can you imagine the hush that came across the crowd as they waited for him to express his desire?

The writing table that he used was probably a piece of wood with a coating of wax on it. A stylus would cut through the wood, making letters. The other end of the stylus would have been flat for smoothing out the wax once he was finished with it. These tablets had been in use for quite some time and were perfect for writing short-term notes.

"His name is John." (Luke 1:63). Immediately Zechariah was able to speak and he began praising God. I imagine (this is in no ways implied or written in scripture) that Elizabeth smiled a tight little smile and stopped herself from stepping on people's toes or tripping them as they scrambled to leave her home and spread the news throughout the hill country.

With John's auspicious beginnings, the people began to wonder, though what he would become? Luke 1:66b "The Lord's hand was with him."

John was created for great things. In 30+ years, some of these people that had spread the news of his birth would hear him preach the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3) and hear him call for preparation to be made for the Messiah!