Jesse Tree – Day 20: Zechariah and Elizabeth

Time for another Jesse Tree reading! And this time, we’re moving out of the Old Testament into the New Testament.

Now, a couple of years ago, when I was rereading the gospels in full for the first time as an adult, I was struck by something that I didn’t expect:

The beginning of Gospel of Luke doesn’t start with Jesus.

I knew, of course, that the Gospel of Luke had the infancy narrative of Jesus. But, for some reason, I had expected the gospel to begin with Jesus. And it doesn’t! Instead, it starts with talking about how St. John the Baptist comes to be born. After all, he is the forerunner of Christ!

And so, the ornament for the day is this one:

The words on the tablet say “HIS NAME IS JOHN.” The crochet pattern is here, if you want to follow along, though I will warn you that I embroidered the words instead of making them in tapestry crochet!

This is probably my kids’ favorite ornament, since they are able to read the words, and that thrills them.

So, why is this the ornament? Good question! Let’s look at the story of Zechariah…

The Story of Zechariah

NABRE

Luke 1

5In the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah; his wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. 7But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years.

Panel with the Angel Appearing to Zacharias, by Domingo Ram, c. 1464–1507.
Panel with the Angel Appearing to Zacharias, by Domingo Ram, c. 1464–1507.

NABRE

Luke 1

8Once when he was serving as priest in his division’s turn before God, 9according to the practice of the priestly service, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense. 10Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside at the hour of the incense offering,

The Annunciation to Zacharias, by Giovanni di Paolo, c. 1455–60. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York, United States.
The Annunciation to Zacharias, by Giovanni di Paolo, c. 1455–60. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York, United States.

NABRE

Luke 1

11the angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense. 12Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.

The Angel Appearing to Zacharias, by William Blake, c. 1799-1800. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York, United States.
The Angel Appearing to Zacharias, by William Blake, c. 1799-1800. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York, United States.

NABRE

Luke 1

13But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. 14And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of [the] Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, 16and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” 18Then Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”

The Angel Appears to Zacharias, by Alexander Ivanov, c. 1850s. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.
The Angel Appears to Zacharias, by Alexander Ivanov, c. 1850s. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.

NABRE

Luke 1

19And the angel said to him in reply, “I am Gabriel, who stand before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. 20But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”

The Vision of Zacharias, by James Tissot, c. 1886-94. Brooklyn Museum, New York, New York, United States.
The Vision of Zacharias, by James Tissot, c. 1886-94. Brooklyn Museum, New York, New York, United States.

NABRE

Luke 1

57When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. 58Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her.

The Birth, Naming, and Circumcision of Saint John the Baptist, by Giovanni Baronzio, c. 1335. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., United States.
The Birth, Naming, and Circumcision of Saint John the Baptist, by Giovanni Baronzio, c. 1335. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., United States.

NABRE

Luke 1

59 When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, 60but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” 61But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”

The Birth and Naming of St. John the Baptist, by Barent Fabritius, c. 1660-69. Städel Museum, Frankfurt, Germany.
The Birth and Naming of St. John the Baptist, by Barent Fabritius, c. 1660-69. Städel Museum, Frankfurt, Germany.

NABRE

Luke 1

62So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. 63He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. 64Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.

Zechariah Writes Down the Name of His Son, by Domenico Ghirlandaio, c. 1490. Tornabuoni Chapel, Florence, Italy.
Zechariah Writes Down the Name of His Son, by Domenico Ghirlandaio, c. 1490. Tornabuoni Chapel, Florence, Italy.

A lovely story, isn’t it? 🙂

But that’s only the beginning! Because very soon, we’ll delve a little further into St. John the Baptist’s story!

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of three, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer

Leave a Reply