He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God (Luke 1:63–64, esv).
Maybe nine months without being able to talk would be just the cure we need for whatever keeps us from praising God with the mouth we already have. Maybe the joy we’re not feeling and expressing today is directly related to an unwillingness to embrace this message:
God has been gracious to us.
Did you know that’s what the name “John” means? The Lord has been gracious. When Gabriel told the old priest Zechariah, “Your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:13), here’s part of the reason why this name was chosen. Every time he held that baby in his hands, every time he saw him growing up as a kid, every time he thought about what his son’s birth meant in terms of God’s faithful promises, he was supposed to think, The Lord has been gracious to me.
But he didn’t see it at first. Zechariah couldn’t get there in the moment. He said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years” (Luke 1:18). He couldn’t believe that the Lord had been that gracious to him.
And if that’s you, sitting here not enjoying the Lord like others do, you’re going to miss out—like Zechariah did, when he was made “unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words” (Luke 1:20). If you’re so focused on what’s yet to be, on what your mind says can’t possibly be, you’ll miss the joy that comes from embracing that the Lord has been gracious to you already.
So make your focus this Christmas, “The Lord has been gracious to me.” Sure, you could list the things you’ve been waiting and longing for, all the prayers He seems to have left unanswered through the years. But are you really going to lose your joy over those things that haven’t happened yet, when He’s given you help and strength and life and breath—a Bible in your hands, the Spirit in your heart, love showered on you in innumerable ways?
Picture Zechariah, when his wife Elizabeth came to tell him she believed she was pregnant, but he wasn’t able to speak. Imagine him putting his hand on her stomach and feeling the baby kicking, but not being able to say anything. Even after the boy was born, as their neighbors and relatives were rejoicing, as Zechariah held him in his arms, he still couldn’t utter a word. He couldn’t embrace it. He’d lost the capacity for joy.
But then the day came for them to name their child. How was Zechariah going to handle it? “He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’” He wasn’t going to blow this again. For nine months he’d been thinking every day, The next time I get to talk . . . he was going to praise God. He was going to say what he wouldn’t say the first time. He was going to embrace what he hadn’t been willing to embrace before. “John”—the Lord has been gracious to me.
Do you want joy? Then get to the place where, in spite of what you’re waiting on, in spite of the thoughts you think in your weaker moments, in spite of where you feel you’ve been forgotten by God, you speak it and mean it from your heart, “The Lord has been gracious to me.”
Because that’s where the joy flows.
Lord, You have been good to me. Forgive me for looking at things I wish were true and failing to rejoice in what already is. I don’t have what I’m going to have some day, but I have what You’ve provided for me. And in all of it, I want You to hear from me the acknowledgment that You are good. Keep me in the place where I can say it with all my heart, in Jesus’ name, amen.