The time came for Elizabeth to have her child. She brought forth a son. And the people that were living near her house – and then her relatives – heard that the child’s Lord showed great mercy to Elizabeth. They rejoiced with her.
And when the eighth day came, they made the “in God’s people” cut on the child. And they said, “we will call him Zachariah, after his father.”
And his mother responded, “Not this. He will be called John.”
And they said to her, “There is nobody in your family called John.”
Zachariah heard them saying, “What should we call him?” So asking for a little tablet, he spoke while he wrote it: “His name is John.”
Everybody was amazed. He was able to speak again. And, before he spoke any more words, he called out praises to God.
All the neighbors were fearful. What happened in Zachariah’s family spread throughout the whole mountain of Judea. All those who heard it treasured it in their hearts saying, “Who will this child be? For the hand of the Lord is with him.”
And Zachariah, John’s father, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and holding John he prophesied saying,
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he sheltered us and made a way out of bondage for his people. God lifted the horn of salvation for us from the house of his son David. He made good on the promise of salvation he spoke through the mouth of his timeless prophet. The message was twofold: First, he is making mercy with our fathers. Second, he remembered his Holy covenant. And what is our salvation? It means that we are saved from the hands of our enemies and from the hands of all who hate us.
In the covenant, he swore an oath to our Father Abraham for our day too, to embolden us out of the hands of our enemies, rescuing us for this reason: so that we might dedicate ourselves to worship him and be righteous before him.
And you boy; you will be called a prophet of the most high. For you will serve as a prophet before the Lord in two ways: first, to prepare His way and second, to give the knowledge of salvation to his people. That knowledge will come through the forgiveness of their sins and from the heartfelt mercies of our God.
And it is from those mercies that the rising dawn of salvation will choose to grace us. It will give light to those sitting in darkness, even in the darkness of death. The sun will guide our feet onto the path of peace.”
And the child grew and became strong in his spirit, and he was in the desert until the day he was made known to Israel.
“There is a reason for adding that none of her kinsfolk bore this name. In this way you are made to understand that this name does not designate the family but the prophet.
“Zachary, in turn, is interrogated by signs. But he who had lost his speech and his hearing because of unbelief, and who could not reply with his voice, spoke with his hand and his writing…He does not give the name, but he testifies to it. It is right and proper that at once his tongue is loosed. It was tied by unbelief, and set free by faith. Let us, too, believe, in order that we might speak. May our tongue, held fast by the bonds of unbelief, be set free to speak words that are spiritual.
“See how good God is, how prompt to pardon us our sins. What He takes away He restores again; and even what we had not hoped for He gives us. This man, though a long time mute, prophesies. This is God’s supreme grace – that those who have denied Him should confess Him. Let no-one lose heart. Let no-one, however conscious of their previous sins, despair of divine recompense. God knows how to modify His judgment, provided you know how to correct your fault.”
St. Ambrose, Commentary on Luke: Book 2.
“1:76. And thou, child, shall be called Prophet of the Highest.
“Observe, I pray, this also, that Christ is the Highest, Whose forerunner John was both in his birth, and in his preaching. What remains, then, for those to say, who lessen His divinity? And why will they not understand, that when Zacharias said, ‘And thou shall be called Prophet of the Highest,’ he meant thereby ‘of God,’ of Whom also were the rest of the prophets…
“1:79. To guide our feet into the way of peace.
“For the world, indeed, was wandering in error, serving the creation in the place of the Creator, and was darkened over by the blackness of ignorance. And a night, as it were, that had fallen upon the minds of all, permitted them not to see Him, Who both by nature and truth is God. But the Lord of all rose for the Israelites, like a light and a sun.“
Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke: Sermon 1.