When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
It’s amazing how many people have opinions when it comes to babies and names. With our first child, Lily, we found out the sex of the baby but didn’t reveal her name until she was born. With our second, Rowan, we waited to find out what and who he’d be when he was born. We also kept our name possibilities secret that time. We didn’t want others to ruin a name that we liked, or hear negative comments about it. In my experience, no one holds a newborn and complains about their name, but they’re full of complaints in the abstract! In fact, one of the few times we discussed a name possibility we had considered with a family member, this well-meaning, but thoroughly unhelpful family member shared several negative comments about the name. Our previous strategies were confirmed!
When the time came for Elizabeth to have her child, Zechariah was still mute. She delivered the boy and then announced that his name was to be John. “What?!?,” they said to her, “none of your relatives has that name!” Seriously? First of all, who are “they?” Well, unless Elizabeth’s really adventurous, “they” here, is likely her family, specifically women in her family. She’s just done one of the most amazing things possible, and at a very old age, and immediately the women in her family begin judging and critiquing her. Wow! Perhaps even more important, though, is why does this matter in the first place? Isn’t God the God who makes all things new? Wasn’t Elizabeth’s pregnancy in the first place, borderline miraculous? Why can’t this child represent a new start, a new direction, and bear a new name? So “they” motion for Zechariah, “surely Zechariah will overrule Elizabeth and name the boy something sensible like Abinadab or Methusaleh!” Instead, John writes down, “his name is John!” The matter was settled. Zechariah’s mouth was unstopped, his tongue unfurled, and his voice returned to him. Zechariah did the right thing. (Maybe God should have stopped up “their” mouthes for a bit?!?) God was doing something new, and a new name was central to God’s plan.
Are you open to the new, to change? Do you greet change with fear and anger, or with an open mind? Today as you pray, ask God to bless you with the ability to have an open mind about God’s ways and means. Ask God for an open mind and flexibility regarding church, traditions, and young people in particular. God is always doing something new. We are in trouble, when we’re so set in our ways, so stuck in our comfort zone, that we miss out on the new thing God is doing. Where are you encountering change in your life? Family and friends doing something new? Is your work rolling out a new computer and/or software system? Still struggling with new worship songs, or maybe with old hymns? Maybe the pastor or church leaders changed up a decoration or layout at church that you liked? Ask God to help you embrace change with an open mind, and open heart, and an open spirit. Our God, after all, is a God who makes all things new. All that new-making, makes for a lot of change!