But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. 14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. 16Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Commentary: The name John has the root of “God is a gracious giver”. The prohibition against alcohol (from birth!) seems to suggest that he was to be a Nazirite; a person dedicated to God at birth, and subject to strict rules concerning consumption of fermented substances, cutting of the hair, and contact with dead bodies. The Nazirite tradition was well known by the time of Jesus; the best example being Samson. While it was possible to take Nazirite vows for a period of time, John’s seem to have been permanent. The only real surviving practitioners of Nazirite vows are Rastafarians, who still follow the tradition.
Take a few moments to imagine holding a newborn baby. What do you notice? What feelings come up? Can you put yourself in Zechariah’s place?