The Birth of John the Baptist
Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. And her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered.
"The Lord has shown great mercy to you! Literally, the word is: 'The Lord MAGNIFIED his mercy with you.' It's the same word Mary used in her hymn of praise.
And this great mercy shown to you, Elizabeth, is exactly what Mary meant when she sang: 'His mercy is on those who fear him.' You fear him. You are one of low degree whom God your Saviour has exalted. You are the hungry whom he will fill with good things.
And this is how "mercy" always comes to us, isn't it? - like a baby delivered in old age: the miracle we thought we had outlived, the gift we thought impossible to receive. It always astonishes us.
And this is how "mercy" comes - like a baby: something which, through us, God gives to us; something completely new and whole on its own; the gift we ourselves must serve and nourish; the gift, nevertheless, that grows up and loves us and finally carries us when we tremble in our dotage.
And this is what "mercy" is: that which fulfils our heart's desire, that gives purpose to our lives, that which also allows us not only to be loved, but also to love completely.
So God grants you this child, and that is his mercy.
Then let no one call the gift by some earthly name. Though it is now I who much nourish the gift...let no worldly voice argue that I am the source, that I earned or deserved it.
The gift that developed within me was not passed down from my parentage to me, not from my race, my culture, my education, prestige or position. Nor could it arise from my own self, my nature or my doing.
This great mercy must receive the name God gives to it: John. Johanan: The Lord has been gracious.
Elizabeth, you bore the son
Who went before the holy one;
But it was you who went before the mother of our Lord.
'Twas you your cousin watched to see
How she might bear her own baby;
So I watch you, the one who bore
The mercy of the Lord.
W. Wangerin Jnr, Preparing for Jesus