Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” 61And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” 62And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, ”His name is John.” And they all wondered. 64And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him. 67And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, 68 ”Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people.” –
December 5, 2021
The final verse of today’s text is the first verse in what is often referred to as the y Benedictus. From the Latin word meaning “blessed,” the Benedictus is a word of blessing offered to God. More specifically, the words of the text form what we speak about as the Benedictus Dominus Deus: “Blessed be the Lord God.”
In this case, the Benedictus is a word of blessing to the Lord God offered by Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. It comes at a time, in Zechariah’s life, in which such a word of blessing was the natural result of what had just happened. If you remember the story, earlier in this opening chapter of Luke’s Gospel, while Zechariah was on duty in the Temple as a priest, an angel of the Lord appeared to him with some surprising news. He and his wife, Elizabeth, who were both old and who had been unable to have children, were told that God had heard their prayer. A child would be born.
He would go before the Lord to prepare His way. And his name was to be John. When Zechariah heard the news, he began to question the angel. “How can I be sure? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years?” The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
And so it was that Elizabeth became pregnant and nine months later gave birth to a son. And so it was that the father, Zechariah, was unable to speak, just as the angel had declared … until that day when it was time to give the child a name. Before he was to be circumcised, the child’s name was to be made known. As was the custom of the Jewish people, everyone thought that the child would be named Zechariah, after his father. But that was not the name they were told by the angel to give. The angel had said that his name was to be John. And so, that is what Elizabeth said. And when asked, that is also what his father Zechariah wrote.
And from that moment on, “his mouth was opened, and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, in a Benedictus, praising God.” For Zechariah, who was chosen by God to be the father of the forerunner of Jesus, a song of praise was a natural response. God’s word had been fulfilled. His promise to Zechariah and Elizabeth had come to pass. What better way to say thanks, than to offer his words and his life in a song of praise.
Two thousand years have come and gone since Zechariah first heard the angel’s words in the Temple. Since that time, also, John the Baptist was born, his ministry pointed to Jesus, and you and I, through the life, death and resurrection of Christ have been blessed. What better way for us to respond than to offer our own word of thanks and praise to God.
And what better response to make than to open our own mouths and to use our own tongues and to let the world know, just like Zechariah did, what God has done for us in Jesus. May this day be one in which we declare our own words of Benedictus Dominus Deus, “Blessed be the Lord God,” to the God who has saved us and blessed us eternally in His Son.