Luke 1:57-80 (NIV)
The Birth of John the Baptist
57When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
59On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”
61They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”
62Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.”
64Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
According to recent statistics released by the Social Security Administration, the name “John” is #20 in the top 100 popular names for baby boys in the USA. “Luke” is #43, “Jesus” is #79, and “Joseph” is #13.
67His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
The whole song naturally falls into two parts. The first (verses 68-75) is a song of thanksgiving for the realization of the Messianic hopes of the Jewish nation; but to such realization is given a characteristically Christian tone. As of old, in the family of David, there was power to defend the nation against their enemies, now again that of which they had been so long deprived, and for which they had been yearning, was to be restored to them, but in a higher and spiritual sense. The horn is a sign of power, and the “horn of salvation” signified the power of delivering or “a mighty deliverance”. While the Jews had impatiently borne the yoke of the Romans, they had continually sighed for the time when the House of David was to be their deliverer. The deliverance was now at hand, and was pointed to by Zechariah as the fulfillment of God’s oath to Abraham; but the fulfillment is described as a deliverance not for the sake of worldly power, but that “we may serve him without fear, in holiness and justice all our days.”. . .
68“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come and has redeemed his people.
69He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
. . . The second part of the canticle is an address by Zechariah to his own son, who was to take so important a part in the scheme of the Redemption; for he was to be a prophet, and to preach the remission of sins before the coming or the Dawn from on high. The prophecy that he was to “go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways” (v. 76) was of course an allusion to the well-known words of Isaiah 40:3–
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.”
which John himself afterwards applied to his own mission (John 1:23), and which all three Synoptic Gospels adopt (Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:2; Luke 3:4).
76And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
80And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.
HERE is a beautifully simple musical rendition of Zechariah’s canticle. From the song site:
“The Song of Zechariah is popularly called the Benedictus because of the opening words in the Latin translation: “Benedictus Deus Israel”—”Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel.” … The Benedictus is a hymn of praise which celebrates the redemption of God through Jesus, the Davidic Messiah. It celebrates the primary virtues of God as a covenant partner: his mercy-kindness in choosing his partners (Abraham, David, the people of Israel) and his fidelity to the covenant. It recapitulates the saving interventions of God in the past. … It is also a prophecy, as it points to the role of the prophet-precursor: the child John. But like anything else in the Gospel, the real point is Christological: it focuses on the “daybreak from on high” in whom God has visited his people and shown his mercy, namely, Jesus Christ, whose ways John will prepare.”