The Church honors Elizabeth and Zechariah — the parents of John the Baptist — together, just as they served and praised God together, all the days of their lives. Luke describes them this way, “Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.” (You can read their story in Luke 1:5-25; 57-80.)
Luke tells us that Elizabeth and Zechariah had no children and their childbearing years had passed. So Zechariah is surprised when the angel Gabriel appears to him with the news that Elizabeth will conceive and bear a son. He is struck dumb (perhaps out of wonderment, though, Luke writes, it is because he did not believe Gabriel’s words.)
Honor Elizabeth today by finding your local crisis pregnancy center and volunteering.
The child arrives. Luke recounts that “(Elizabeth’s) neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy towards her, and they rejoiced with her.” Elizabeth will show great mercy towards her cousin, Mary, rejoicing with her at the news of Mary’s pregnancy.
Zechariah gives the baby the name, “John,” writing the word on a tablet. He chooses this name even though no one in the family carries it. Once Zechariah has declared, “John is his name,” his tongue is freed and he begins blessing God.
Honor Elizabeth today by finding your local crisis pregnancy center and volunteering. They need money and baby clothes and baby gear. They need people to answer phones and greet guests. They may need people to drive expectant mothers to doctors’ appointments and grocery shopping. They may need homes for mothers as they await their babies’ births. Show great mercy as Elizabeth both received and showed great mercy.
Honor Zechariah today by singing his hymn of praise. (The Canticle of Zechariah is a part of the Church’s daily morning prayer.) The version below, from the Lutheran hymnal, With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress Publishing House, 1995) is set to the familiar English folk tune “Forest Green.” Because “Forest Green” is a common meter doubled hymn, it can be sung to other common meter hymns, like “Amazing Grace.” You’ll just sing that familiar tune twice (“doubled”) on each of the stanzas.
Blessed be the God of Israel who comes to set us free
and raises up new hope for us: a branch from David’s tree.
So have the prophets long declared that with a mighty arm
God would turn back our enemies and all who wish us harm.
With promised mercy will God still the covenant recall,
the oath once sworn to Abraham, from foes to save us all:
That we might worship without fear and offer lives of praise,
in holiness and righteous to serve God all our days.
My child as prophet of the Lord you will prepare the way,
to tell God’s people they are saved from sin’s eternal sway.
Then shall God’s mercy from on high shine forth and never cease
to drive away the gloom of death and lead us into peace.