What then is this child going to be?

Out in the hill country of Judea in the months before the birth of Jesus, people were wondering about the connection between a baby and the coming Lord.

“What then is this child going to be?” they were asking each other.

There was a remarkable convergence of events.

First, his dad had come home from Jerusalem, unable to speak. Then, his mom, well past menopause, was pregnant. Then, when it was time to name the baby, everybody wanted to name him after his dad until his mom said, “No. We’re going to call him John.” Then, because she wasn’t to be trusted, they asked his dad, who wrote, “His name is John.” And suddenly his dad could speak and told an unbelievable story of angels and prophecy.

Just because it was unbelievable didn’t mean it was unrepeatable.

“What then is this child going to be”? That’s what people would ask after the stories were told, of miracles in the temple and the bedroom, of the old couple with the new baby, of the long silence and sudden speech. Silence of Zechariah and, for those who followed such stories, a long silence of God.

Zechariah had an answer. “A prophet,” he said, “to prepare the way of the Lord.” It sounded good, rooted in the stories of the prophets who challenged the rich and powerful people.


I’m waiting, if you are wondering, for a conversation with John, like those I’ve had with Nehemiah and with Saint John of the Mall. But I’m not finding him anywhere close. I have a feeling that I’m only going to find him out in the wilds, away from where people live, close to an absence of external distractions.

I’ll let you know if I see him.

In the meantime, I’m thinking about the question. What then is this child going to be?