Zechariah was stuck dumb for doubting the message of the angel. As the family were squabbling over the name to give this new-born son, Zechariah wrote on the tablet “His name is John.” This was the name the angel had told Zechariah to give him. The name John in Hebrew means “The Lord is gracious.” The Scottish form of John is Ian, the Irish is Sean, and the welsh is Evan. Today according to one website “John” is 28th most popular boy’s name. Liam was the most popular in 2019.
Zechariah broke with tradition and didn’t hand on his own name to his son. In calling him “John” he was doing what God was asking him to do, and people were speculating; “What will this child turn out to be.” That is a question or thought most parents and grandparents have as they gaze on the newborn child.; “what will he or she turn out to be?” John’s name summed up all that God had given to his chosen people through all the prophets. God is gracious because the greatest gift we have been given is Jesus, who was heralded by John.
Our young people last Sunday were confirmed, and they all chose another name with which to be sealed with the Holy Spirit. This was name of a saint that hopefully would inspire and encourage them in what God was calling them to be. I choose Peter when I was confirmed at eight. Today I am still happy with that name, not because Peter was the leader of the apostles, but because despite being chosen, he didn’t always get it right and often spoke before he got his brain in gear. He failed but always began again. Whatever name we have it is good to hear these words of Isaiah:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.