57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”
61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”
62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
As we have walked through Luke 1, I have noticed three recurring words in my reflections: Grace, Joy, and Praise. Time and again we have seen God’s incredible grace in what He chose to do in the world, and in particular, in the lives of Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary. We’ve seen the reaction of joy on the part of Elizabeth, John and Mary, and the response of praise, especially on the part of Mary.
All three come together in today’s passage, in which we move from promise to fulfillment. The Lord’s promise through the angel Gabriel that Elizabeth would have a son in now fulfilled in the birth of John.
Grace: The neighbors recognized this as God’s mercy. Elizabeth and Zechariah insisted that his name would be John, which means “The Lord has shown favor.” In other words, grace.
Joy: The neighbors rejoiced at the birth of John, sharing in Elizabeth’s joy.
Praise: This is what is most fascinating. After Zechariah wrote on the tablet, “His name is John,” his mouth was opened and his ability to speak was restored. What did he begin to speak? Praise. He began to praise his God. Zechariah, far from being bitter about losing nine months of being able to speak, is filled with a desire to praise the Lord who had shown such favor to him and Elizabeth.
What a gift it is to be able to speak! Can you imagine what it would be like to go an entire day unable to speak? Think of how frustrating it is when you lose your voice! Now imagine nine months of verbal silence!
Zechariah’s example is a reminder to me that the chief use of our voice is what he first uses it for: To praise God. We can use our voices for many things. Some good, some not so good. But the highest use of our speaking is to use it to praise the Lord for His favor, mercy and grace.
This is why times of worship are so important. During these days of COVID lockdown, when we cannot gather together to praise the Lord, it is more difficult to lift our voices in praise. Sometimes it seems odd to sing praise by ourselves or just with a few people. But it is important, and as we are reminded here, the highest use of this gift.
Lord Jesus, I praise you for the gift of being able to speak and to sing. Move me to use my voice above all to give praise to you!
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