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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 1:57–66

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him. (NRSV)

There is deep tradition in naming babies in my family. My brother is named for my father who in turn is named for his father. Being a “chip off the old block” invites many comparisons. My mother remembers clearly my eight-year-old brother anxiously asking if he had to do the same job as our dad when he grew up. She laughs, recalling his obvious relief when she told him he could pursue any job he wanted.

That wasn’t the case at the time of John’s birth. The eldest male offspring was not only named for his father but also expected to literally follow in his footsteps. It’s no wonder that all who gathered for the circumcision of Elizabeth and Zechariah’s baby were shocked to learn he would be called John. 

But the angel Gabriel had appeared to Zechariah, telling him that Elizabeth would bear a son and that this child was to be named John. God wanted people to understand that this baby was different. By breaking with the traditional naming convention, the preconceived notions about the path of this baby boy’s life were removed too.

Heavenly Father, help me to let go of my preconceived notions about who I am supposed to be. Enlighten me that I may recognize the full potential you blessed me with and lead me to use it to your glory. Amen.

Written by Sarah Younger, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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