“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.” Luke 1.57-66
We find a wide variety of supporting cast members among the characters in the Christmas story — Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zechariah, John, the Shepherds, Gabriel, the Wise Men, and Herod (as the villian) just to name a few. And yet, they all point to the star of the show — the baby Jesus.
Johns’ role in life was also to direct people to God. He was given to Elizabeth, a Jewish woman who was barren, and his father a priest, Zechariah, for one purpose– to show people the Messiah.
The precise commission of this Jewish boy is found in Luke 1.14-17, “He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
To summarize: 1) he will be a joy and delight, 2) he will be great in the sight of the Lord, 3) he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, 4) he will bring back many people of Israel to their God, 5) he will go before the Lord in spirit and power, 6) he will prepare the way of the coming of the Lord and Messiah.
John was no light weight and yet he pales in comparison to Jesus — the Word of God made flesh.
But John was a gift from God to the people. His name in Hebrew means “God is gracious.” Two male babies given at Christmas — one to save the sins of humanity and the other to introduce him. Both would die for the cause of the gospel, the good news given to humanity.
And yet the gift is meaningless unless received by the people. Our response is crucial, our acceptance imperative. God so loved the world the he gave… Jesus. This is the meaning of Christmas, to receive the gift of God’s salvation.
Have you received this gift? Have you allowed John to pave the way for repentance and Jesus to save your sins and your life from despair? Turn to Christ today– find hope and joy in the one who gave his life for you.
“O Lord God, this season is to be one of remembrance and response. We remember the deeds of Jesus and we respond to your opportunity for life. Remembrance and response. Thank you Lord for loving us. Thank you for giving your life so we might have life now and life in the world to come. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen