Zechariah and the newborn

Today is the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist. According to the Gospel of Luke, when Gabriel (an archangel) announced to John’s father that his wife would conceive, Zechariah was doubtful, and Gabriel, as a sign that this was indeed the truth, banned Zechariah from speaking any words, true or false, until the child was born. On the day of his birth, however, Zechariah was still mute. His tongue will be released on the eighth day, when he names his son, John.

Gradually, he had fallen

silent, as though retreating

from his own voice; his

mumbles and his wordless out-

bursts strewn across the floor

as he backed away, shuffling,

an old man who had

forgotten how to speak.


When he saw his son, he

opened his cracked lips,

flailed his tongue wildly,

choking on his rusty breath;

a catch, a swallow then he wailed

like an infant bellowing at

the sheer effrontery of birth;

the audacity of life.

About Rosalind C Hughes

Rosalind C Hughes is a priest and author living near the shores of Lake Erie. After growing up in England and Wales, and living briefly in Singapore, she is now settled in Ohio. She serves an Episcopal church just outside Cleveland. Rosalind is the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing , and Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence, both from Upper Room Books. She loves the lake, misses the ocean, and is finally coming to terms with snow.
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