On a personal note, my wife and I are nearing the end of our (and by “our” I mean “her”) third pregnancy. We’ve decided to let the sex of this child be a surprise until he or she is born, but, because of that, we’ve had a harder time picking out a name.
With the first two, when we found out the sex of the baby well before it was born, we were able to zero in on names fairly quickly. I think the not-knowing is making it more difficult for us to narrow our decisions. If we don’t hurry up, however, we’ll be bringing home “Baby Boy Garner” or “Baby Girl Garner” from the hospital.
Choosing the right name is such a huge responsibility.
Do we go with a name that sounds good? Some combinations of consonants and vowels are just more pleasing to the ear. (Sorry, Gretchen.) Do we care more about how the overall name hangs together, choosing a combination of first, middle, and last that gives the most satisfaction, or do we emphasize the name the child will be called and the let the rest come together. Do we try to honor one of our families or both in the choosing of a name? (There aren’t that many duplicates between my wife’s Italian ancestry and my family’s English roots.) So, what do we do?
In today’s lesson from Luke (1:57-66), we see a wonderful moment of naming unfold. In a vision in the sanctuary of the temple, Zechariah was told to name his child John. Because he doubted the angel’s words, he was struck mute. Finally, the unlikely conception and birth came to pass, and, on the eighth day, Elizabeth and Zechariah brought their baby to be circumcised and named. “What name shall be given this child?” the officials asked. Elizabeth, speaking for her silent husband, replied, “John.” The objections went up—“But you don’t have anyone in your family named John.” Her husband interrupted by writing on a tablet, “His name is John,” and, at once, his mouth was opened and he began to speak and praise God. The crowd marveled, and fear spread through the family, the members of which said to themselves, “What will come of this child?”
Sometimes the giving of a name can be dramatic. God hasn’t given me any visions on what to name this coming child, but I still trust that, as we figure out what to call this child, we can indeed be led by the spirit. It’s hard to think that no matter what name we give our baby, God already has that child’s name written on God’s heart. Whatever name the child gets, he or she is still named as God’s son or daughter.
We all have a name. Some were given for obvious reasons (William Scott Johnson, VI). Others were chosen by a parent’s whim (Genesis Sunshine Tynes). But we are still named by God just as John the Baptist was named. Would that each of our families murmured, “What will come of this child?” whenever our names were given. I think that’s how God sees us—no matter what our name is.