“His name is John”. And they were all astonished (Lk 1:63). These are the words of Elizabeth which we hear today as we celebrate the Nativity of John the Baptist. Why were the excited crowd gathered around Elizabeth astonished at the choice of the name John? They were astonished because; “no one in their family has that name” (cf. Lk 1: 61).
The passing on of names is something we know quite well. It marks our identity. Our name is our special word that not only identifies us, but it also joins us to others, just think of our surnames or family names.
It might be a little old fashion to say that our “first” name is our “Christian” name, or our “baptismal” name but that is what it is. The name we were baptised with grafts us onto the Holy name, the name of the Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Before we were baptised the priest (or deacon) would have said (insert your name), “I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. In this moment we become God’s children and become part of God’s family.
The name “John” is a Hebrew name which means God has been gracious; or God has shown favour. This name now makes a lot more sense for a couple that thought that, in their old age parenthood was beyond them.