A teenage boy had just passed his driving test and asked his father when they could talk about his use of the family car.

 

His father said he’d make a deal with his son,

“You bring your grades up from a C to a B average,

study your Bible a little and get your hair cut,

then we’ll talk about the car.”

 

The boy thought about that for a minute,

then decided he’d settle for the offer and they agreed on it.

 

After about six weeks his father said,

“Son, you’ve brought your grades up

and I’ve observed that you have been studying your Bible,

but I’m disappointed you haven’t had your hair cut.”

 

The boy said, “You know, Dad, I’ve been thinking about that

and I’ve noticed in my studies of the Bible that Samson had long hair,

John the Baptist had long hair,

Moses had long hair

and there’s even strong evidence that Jesus had long hair.”

 

(You’re going to love the Dad’s reply!)

 

He said, “Did you also notice they all walked everywhere they went?”

 

What's in a Name?

 

In ancient days of the bible, names were extremely important.

If you called someone by name you had a certain power over that person.

 

This is why the Jews at certain periods of the Hebrew scriptures,

what we call the “Old Testament”,

would not speak the name of the Holy One,

the being we today so casually refer to as “God,”

or OMG in texting.

 

Speaking his name would seem to make the speaker more powerful,

than the one who was above all.

 

In today’s Gospel there is a bit of a wrangle about the naming of John the Baptist,

and I need to go back a few pages in Luke’s story to remind us why.

 

You see, names were important to God also.

The Archangel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah

and told him the name of his son would be John.

Why John?

 

Probably because this name had a Hebrew root that meant something like,  “The Lord has shown favor,”

an indication of John’s future role in salvation history.

 

The angel Gabriel appeared also to Mary,

frightening her with an announcement of her holiness,

and the blessedness of her womb,

 since it would bear the holiest child of all.

 

The name of that child would be what we today known as “Jesus”,

though in the Hebrew and Aramaic,

the full name was Yehoshua, or Joshua, meaning “the Lord saves.”

 

Gabriel’s appearance to the old man Zechariah,

was nearly identical to the one to Mary.

 

As you know,

the reactions of Mary and Zechariah were also quite similar,

except for one important difference.

 

Mary was puzzled because she was not married and had not known man.

She needed an explanation and asked for it.

 

Zechariah knew that he and his wife were both far beyond child-bearing age,

and so he actually doubted the word of the Archangel and asked for proof.

 

The angel struck Zechariah mute,

unable to speak.

Whereas Mary,

because of her humble willingness,

opened to the Holy Spirit and she conceived.

 

Usually the Hebrews named the male child on the eighth day,

at the time of his circumcision.

 

Neighbors and relatives came along for this,

and they all had the opinion that Zechariah’s child,

should also be named Zechariah, after his father.

 

Ah, but his mother Elizabeth said no!

He will be called John.

 

Apparently her husband had found a way to tell her the story of the Archangel

and the preordained name.

 

He did have a tablet to write on.

In the Gospel they had to make signs to talk to him,

so he had evidently also been struck deaf as well as mute.

 

Zechariah writes,

in answer to the signs,

that “John is his name.”

 

Immediately Zechariah can speak again and can hear again,

since he was hearing and speaking out the word of God.

 

A fascinating story,

but what does this mean to us today?

 

I think that God has a special name for each one of us,

one he calls us by in the depths of our heart.

 

I’s a name that,

if we can hear it and speak it in the way we live our lives,

will make us who we are supposed to be.

 

When Mary visited Elizabeth,

John's leaping in the womb,

shows us that there is a part of us that can recognize God,

regardless of what we do or who we are.

 

 

It's encoded into the way he made us.

This ability to recognize the Lord is not limited to unborn babies,

or to great saints like John.

 

It's in all of us,

and it's something that the Holy Spirit wants to bring to life,

so that we too can recognize Jesus more deeply,

and rejoice in his presence.