If you are anything like me, you know the origins and the meaning of you name. Out of academic interest more than anything else, not that I was ever going to change my name, but I wanted to know where it came from. The name Edwin comes from the old English elements “ead” meaning blessed and “pine” meaning “friend”. Recently I re – Googles it and found it means “rich” friend ….. yeah, not so much!
The art of naming your offspring is an interesting one. And one that took much thought and discussion on our part. With our three children we took into consideration family names, linguistic meanings and nicknames. And the nickname part carried a lot of weight. We liked Katherine but hated Cat. We loved Elizabeth but hated Liz … you get my point. With our oldest we settled on Natalie because of the fact that she was due on the 25th of March, nine months before Christmas, and the name means “Child of Christmas”. And, most importantly, we could not think of any logical, offensive, nick names. Imagine my surprise when she was in Highschool, and I came to watch a basketball practice only to hear the other players calling her “Bug”. Her friends had shortened Natalie to Nat and a gnat was a bug so they called her “bug”. So much for the best laid plans of mice and men.
In today’s Gospel we hear of the naming of John the Baptist. Remember the story; Elizabeth had never been able to have any children, so she prayed and prayed for a child and through the intervention of the Holy Spirit, she was able to get pregnant and have a child.
The story of her husband, Zechariah, was also an interesting one if not a little bit comical. He was also advanced in years and when he heard, from and angel, that he was to have a son he responded the way that any typical man responds, “who me? Naaaaaaa not possible”. To which the angel got a little annoyed and said, “yes you, and because you doubted me you are now mute”. Just a little harsh, if you ask me.
So, jump forward nine months to today’s reading. Elizabeth is in labor, and Zechariah is outside still mute. Their son is born and her friends as so happy that they start dancing around congratulating them on the birth of baby Zachariah. Until Elizabeth says “Hold on. His name is not Zechariah it is John”. Boy you want to get a small-town rumor mill started just try to name your first born after someone other than you husband. “Wait a minute, who is John?” “Wasn’t there a traveling camel salesman that came through town some time ago?” So, naturally they go to tell Zachariah, “Wait until he hears what his wife just did”. “Hey Zac, do you want to hear what Lizzy just did? She says that she is going to name Zachariah Junior, John. What do you have to say about that”?
Now remember that Zachariah is still mute, so they hand him a writing tablet and he wrote “John is his name”. Well, that showed them but why John.
When I started, I referenced the origins of names, and this is the interesting twist. The name of John is derived from the Hebrew word that means “Yahweh is gracious”. Of course, that was his name. After waiting so long to have a son what could possible be more gracious than the gift of this child.
We are coming to the end of our time of waiting. For 28 days we have been preparing, praying, decorating, and shopping for this coming Saturday. And finally, that for which we have waited is finally going to be here.
The first reading is the last chapter and verse of the Old Testament. We hear the promise from God that he will send us His messenger. He promises that he will send us someone that will prepare the way before Him. And today we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist.
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, then Christmas day then the feast of the Holy Family and the 12 days of Christmas. With all of this going on, with all of our preparation, with all of distractions let’s not forget that Yahweh is gracious. He loves us and wants to make a gift of himself to us on Christmas morning. Because after all of this preparation and time of waiting today’s responsorial psalm reminds us that after Christmas morning we should:
Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.
When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child
she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard
that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,
and they rejoiced with her.
When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,
they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
but his mother said in reply,
“No. He will be called John.”
But they answered her,
“There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”
So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.
He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,”
and all were amazed.
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,
and he spoke blessing God.
Then fear came upon all their neighbors,
and all these matters were discussed
throughout the hill country of Judea.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,
“What, then, will this child be?
For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.”
December 23, 2021
December 23, 2021