The first time I realized that the name JOHN is an abbreviated expression that means “Gift of God,” I was really filled with amazement. For Zachariah and Elizabeth who was barren all their lives, the baby named John was indeed a great gift, a blessing from God.
We have to understand that during those times the idea of life eternal was not yet fully developed in the minds of the Jews people. Hence, vast number of the flocks, long life and fertility of the womb were considered as favors from God. Opposite to that would only mean curse from up above. Elizabeth and Zachariah must have carried the weight of the negative perception of their family, friends and neighbors of being cursed by God. The coming of John into their lives was indeed a great gift and favor from God…as if lifting the curse. John was indeed a gift from God for this elderly couple.
With that biblical context in mind, I am sure why angel Gabriel told Zachariah to name his child JOHN. The child was God’s answer to a prayer and favor they have been asking for many years. Although long overdue in the eyes of men, it was a perfect gift for the couple, and for the whole world, at the exact moment. God has answered their prayers NOW…and that is what matters the most. Hence the child and his name would be a constant reminder for Zachariah and Elizabeth, including the people that surround them, that God will always be generous, grants the necessary gifts and blessing as answers to their prayers.
Our gospel narrative today of John’s birth is a reminder to all of us also that God will always answer our prayers…ALWAYS!!!… in his own perfect time and in his own perfect manner. As a good and loving Father, he always gives us what is best for us. Not necessarily what we ask for. Not seeing it in this perspective has always been the source of our discouragement and heaviness of heart. The problem then lies in us, and not in the generous God.
There is a Christmas song written by Irving Berlin and popularized by Jose Marie Chan in the Philippines which goes “If you are weary and could not sleep, just count your blessings, instead of sheep…” let us not count what is not given to us. If it is not granted, it means it is not for us. Focus on the many wonderful gifts and blessing the Father has given us instead.
With this we can really say that the Father is a generous God, full of compassion, mercy and love. As John the Baptist was a reminder to Zachariah and Elizabeth of God’s generosity may he be a reminder for all of us that the Father has already given us his greatest gift – his Son Jesus Christ!
We prepare our hearts for Christmas by being grateful to God for all his gifts and blessings.
Fray Rommel Rubia, OAR