The Naming of John the Baptist

Giuliano Bugiardini - La nascita di San Giovanni Battista.jpg
Giuliano Bugiardini – La nascita di San Giovanni Battista” by Giuliano BugiardiniThe Bridgeman Art Library, Object 78336. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

So today apparently marks the birth of John the Baptist – who knew (probably everyone but me!).

Both of our sons have one of their names that reflect our family history, one from mine, one from Mr Pamsperambulations.  Not because we’re particularly big into that, but it seemed a nice thing to do, to have a link back through the generations.  In fact there are cousins who share the names, so there is a common link through their generation too.

Luke 1:57-66, 80 (CEV)

The Birth of John the Baptist

57 When Elizabeth’s son was born, 58 her neighbors and relatives heard how kind the Lord had been to her, and they too were glad.

59 Eight days later they did for the child what the Law of Moses commands.[a] They were going to name him Zechariah, after his father.60 But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John.”

61 The people argued, “No one in your family has ever been named John.” 62 So they motioned to Zechariah to find out what he wanted to name his son.

63 Zechariah asked for a writing tablet. Then he wrote, “His name is John.” Everyone was amazed. 64 Right away, Zechariah started speaking and praising God.

65 All the neighbors were frightened because of what had happened, and everywhere in the hill country people kept talking about these things.66 Everyone who heard about this wondered what this child would grow up to be. They knew that the Lord was with him.

80 As John grew up, God’s Spirit gave him great power. John lived in the desert until the time he was sent to the people of Israel.

This thought was going round my head as I read this:

It was the tradition, the ‘done thing’ to name a child after his father or grandfather, and honourable ancestral passing down, that killer thing

It’s always been done this way.

Yet, God has commanded that this is not going to happen this time.  The baby is to be called John.  There are no John’s in the family.  This I think is quite significant.  In this child, God is breaking with tradition.  he is going to do something quite different and new.  This is not a continuation of a family line, but a start of a new one.

It fascinates me when the bible tells us of God breaking into the lives of people who cannot possibly have got pregnant naturally.  Often, as in this case, when they are way beyond child-bearing age, or in the case of Mary, before it.  It is not possible for these children to be ‘man (and woman) made’.  It is the work of God – no one else can take any credit.  God is here, doing something, out of the ordinary.  And in this case it needs a new name, a new tradition, a new way.

So, how about me.  What about you?  Is God doing something new?  Naming something differently?  Is he just waiting to break out, and take us with him if we’ll go?  Working outside expectations, norms, human working – and, God forbid, ‘the way we’ve always done it’.

Lets hope and pray so!

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