Gospel: Luke 1:57-66, 80

A Change in Plans

How have events disputed your plans? How do you react to these disruptions?

The best laid plans...

How many times have you made plans only to change them? Other people or circumstances force us to reconsider what we want to do. Sometimes we respond with irritation at a change in plans. Sometimes we just “go with the flow.” But there are those rare times we an agency much greater than our own that either blocks progress or speeds it. When our plans are changed because of God, he does have a way to let us know.

Zechariah had a dream and plans if that dream came true. His plans were radically altered when God got in the way. Zechariah praised God at the birth of his son. He also showed everyone who was really in charge by the miracle of his restored voice.

Popular Translation

57 The time arrived for Elizabeth to give birth, and she had a son. 58 Her family and friends heard that the Lord showered his mercy on her. Everyone was happy.

59 Eight days after the birth, her family and friends gathered to circumcise the boy. They wanted to name the boy after his father, Zechariah.

60 “No, we calling him ‘John,’” his mother said.

61 “No one in your family has that name,” they said.

62 Then, they made signs to the father. “What are you going to name the boy?” they seemed to say.

63 On a tablet, Zachariah wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Suddenly, he could talk. “Praise God,” he kept saying.

65 All their neighbors were awed. Everyone in Judea seemed to talk about all the things that happened. The people who heard about it wondered, “What will happen to the boy?”

80 John grew up and the Spirit made him strong. He lived in the desert until the day he started preaching to the people of Israel.

Literal Translation

57 The time was full for Elizabeth to give birth and she bore a son. 58 The (surrounding) clans and her relatives heard that the Lord had made great his mercy upon her, and (they) rejoiced with her. 59 It happened on the eighth day (after his birth the clans and relatives) came to circumcise the child and call him by the name of his father, Zechariah. 60 Having answered, his mother said, “(It will) not (be). Rather, he will be called ‘John.’” 61 (They) said to her, “(There) is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.” 62 (They) made signs to his father as to what he might him to be called. 63 Having asked, he wrote on a (writing) tablet, “John is his name.” 64 His mouth was instantly opened and his tongue (too), and he kept speaking, praising God. 65 Fear came upon the (people) living around them, and all these (events) were discussed throughout the entire hill country of Judea, 66 and all (those) having heard laid (the events) in their hearts said, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.

80 The child grew and became strong in the Spirit, and (he) was in the desert until the day of his appearance to Israel.

1:63 “writing tablet” This was a wood plank covered with wax on one side. A stylus would make impressions on the wax.

1:66 “...all (those) having heard laid (the events) in their hearts ...” This is a Hebraic phrase that means “pay attention to.” The birth of John and the miracle of Zachariah’s speech were noteworthy events in the region.

The narrative of the Baptist’s birth revolved around the miraculous. An elderly couple could not have children, yet an angel told the man, Zechariah, that his prayer had been answered. Zechariah was incredulous, so he was struck incapable of speech. But the couple did conceive a son. When Mary visited the boy’s mother, Elizabeth, the Spirit filled the boy when in the womb. Now, with the birth of the child, miracles would happen again. With the proclamation of the boy’s name, Zechariah regained his power of speech, only to praise God over and over. The Spirit would also lead the boy through his adolescence until his appearance as an adult.

Notice the faith of the couple in the face of peer pressure. The name of the child was to reflect not just a favorite relative, but the identity of the clan itself. Male children would be given the name of an elder. In turn, the boy was expected to follow in the footsteps of that elder. When family and friends wanted to name the boy after his father, they wanted the boy continue the traditions of the priestly caste. By giving him a new name, Zechariah and Elizabeth defied convention and declared his identity and role would be different, outside family traditions and expectations. When speech was restored to Zechariah, he praised God to affirm his faith in the heavenly message he was given. In other words, Luke highlighted the movement of the Spirit over the parochial concerns of the immediate community. God, not humans, would guide events.

How many times have our parochial interests blinded us the to the activity of God in our lives?

Plans can change. But the will of God is constant. He may seem arbitrary, but if we see his plans from his point of view, we can see how he achieves his ends. It is his Spirit that changes us and our situations, for the glory of the Father. Like Zechariah, our answer to God’s intervention should be “Praise the Lord!”

How can you praise God when your plans are frustrated? How does your faith help you when foresight fails?