Naming your child is a meaningful moment—for you and for God
A Reflection for Friday of the Fourth Week of Advent
You can find today’s readings here.
But they answered her,
“There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” (Lk 1:61)
The moment when you name your child is filled with tremendous meaning. For many people, and especially for the people we read about in today’s Gospel, it is an opportunity to register one’s deep gratitude and respect for a family or a friend. There are few gifts more heartfelt than naming your child after someone you love.
In today’s Gospel, Zechariah has other plans. God tells him to name his son John and he obeys, even though people point out: “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” I imagine Zechariah’s relatives were none too pleased. They had been waiting for decades for Elizabeth and Zechariah to have children, and when the moment comes, they do not receive the gift they had likely been expecting: naming the child after one of their own.
This is extremely unusual, of course: God does not often intervene at moments like this, telling us what to name our child. But this story reminds us of something very important. God is the father of all, and at the time of birth, perhaps more so than at any other, we must—like Zechariah—find ways to thank him for what he has given us.
Births, like the Christmas feast we celebrate this weekend, are occasions for great joy and pageantry. They are wonderful opportunities to celebrate, and celebrate we should. But we must also give thanks to God, and not let anything get in the way, even if that means, as it does for Zechariah, going against the customs of the day.
The story, of course, does not end there, not for Zechariah and not for any parent. The great joy of birth gives way to the reality of parenthood—and all of the anxiety and sleepless nights that come with it. Fast forward 25 years. Is Elizabeth or Zechariah still alive when John the Baptist, their son, sets out on his ministry? Scripture does not say. But surely, as he grew, they worried what God had in store for him. And they had reason for worry.
God marked John for a different path. That was clear from the moment of his birth, and there was nothing his friends or family could do to alter it. This is a truth that all parents must face. God gives us a tremendous gift in our children, and then asks us to accompany them on a path not of our own choosing.
Favorite Advent or Christmas themed art?
I love visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art every year and seeing the Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche.
Favorite Christmas tradition?
Trying to find a good new Christmas movie with my kids—and discovering once again that nothing beats “A Christmas Story.”
Which project are you most proud to have worked on this year at America?
Our interview with Pope Francis! After interviewing the pope on Nov. 22, we worked through the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to get the interview ready and prepare our media push. It was a great example of how we work together as a team.
Favorite Christmas recipe?
I don’t usually do the cooking on Christmas, but this recipe for Yorkshire Pudding caught my eye this year. Dickens would approve.
Favorite Christmas photo?