GOSPEL READING: Luke 1:57-66
57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to be delivered, and she gave birth to a son. 58 And her neighbors and kinsfolk heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they would have named him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “None of your kindred is called by this name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he would have him called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all marveled. 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea; 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.
SCRIPTURE READING: Malachi 3:1-4,23-24
1 “Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? “For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the LORD. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years. 23 [4:5] “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes.24 [4:6] And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.”
Meditation: Are you surprised to see the relatives of Zechariah and Elizabeth disagreeing over what to name their newborn child? Don’t we do the same thing? This child, however has been named from above! And Elizabeth is firm in her faith and determined to see that God be glorified through this child. The name John means “the Lord is gracious.” In the birth of John the Baptist and in the birth of Jesus the Messiah we see the grace and favor of God breaking forth into a world broken by sin, corruption, and death – a world lost without hope.
The Old Testament prophets foretold the return of the prophet Elijah (Malachi 3:1, and 4:5) who would announce the coming of the Messiah – the Savior and Ruler of the earth. John the Baptist fulfills the role of Elijah (Matthew 11:13-14). His miraculous birth shows the mercy and favor of God in preparing his people for the coming of its Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
When God acts to save us he graciously fills us with his Holy Spirit and makes our faith come “alive” to his promises. When we respond to his word with trust the Lord fills us with the joy of the Holy Spirit and renews our hope and gratitude for the mercy and gift of new life and salvation he gives us through Jesus Christ. Do you make your life an offering of thanksgiving to God, along with your family and all that you have and hope to accomplish? God wants to fill us with the joy of his saving presence all the days of our lives, from birth through death. Renew the offering of your life to God and give him thanks for his mercy and favor towards you.
Lord Jesus, you are gracious and forgiving towards us. Renew in me the gift of faith that I may believe your promises and obey your word.
Psalm 25:4-5, 8-10,14
4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.
8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
14 The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.
Daily Quote from the Early Church Fathers: The parallels between John and Jesus, by Ephrem the Syrian (306-373 AD)
“The elderly Elizabeth gave birth to the last of the prophets, and Mary, a young girl, to the Lord of the angels. The daughter of Aaron gave birth to the voice in the desert (Isaiah 63:9), but the daughter of David to the strong God of the earth. The barren one gave birth to him who remits sins, but the Virgin gave birth to him who takes them away (John 1:29). Elizabeth gave birth to him who reconciled people through repentance, but Mary gave birth to him who purified the lands of uncleanness. The elder one lit a lamp in the house of Jacob, his father, for this lamp itself was John (John 5:35), while the younger one lit the Sun of Justice (Malachi 4:2) for all the nations. The angel announced to Zechariah, so that the slain one would proclaim the crucified one and that the hated one would proclaim the envied one. He who was to baptize with water would proclaim him who would baptize with fire and with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11). The light, which was not obscure, would proclaim the Sun of Justice. The one filled with the Spirit would proclaim concerning him who gives the Spirit. The priest calling with the trumpet would proclaim concerning the one who is to come at the sound of the trumpet at the end. The voice would proclaim concerning the Word, and the one who saw the dove would proclaim concerning him upon whom the dove rested, like the lightning before the thunder.” (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON TATIAN’S DIATESSARON 1.31)