This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Advent day 14: What then will this child become?

Jenna Liechty Martin is mother to nine-month-old Henry and lives at Camp Friedenswald in Cassopolis, Michigan, where she serves as Executive Director.  Jenna and her husband, Peter Martin, spent three years in Belfast, Northern Ireland, serving through Mennonite Mission Network. She is a graduate of Bluffton (Ohio) University.

Read all Advent 2015 reflections.

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.

On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, ‘No; he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘None of your relatives has this name.’ Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, ‘What then will this child become?’ For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him. Luke 1:57-66

“It’s a boy!”

And Baby Boy Martin was his name for the first day or two of his life. The nurses noted this new “name” on his tiny wristband and curiously asked what we considered naming him. Family members, impatient to know who this boy might be, kept hounding, “Does he have a name yet? You’ve only had nine months to figure this out!”

But as new parents the decision didn’t seem so simple. How do we choose a name that will remain with this child for the rest of his life when we have known him for so little time? Even the previous nine months did not prepare me to meet this child face to face and to decide what we would name him.

Choosing a name that hadn’t been ruled off our list for one reason or another was not simple. My husband, Peter, and I scoured our family trees, held him in our arms, tried different names on him and finally decided on a name: Henry John Liechty Martin. (It would have taken even longer if my sister-in-law had continued to foster Henry, the dog…)

The act of naming a child was a surprisingly difficult, but holy moment for us. We, as new parents, had the responsibility and honor of giving this new life a title, a name. And in giving a name, we found ourselves wondering…what then will this child become?

For Elizabeth and Zechariah, the arrival of their first born son was unexpected, as Elizabeth was older and had been unable to have children. But as the angel promised, she delivered a son. And as the angel instructed, she named him John–an unexpected name for the first born son who it was assumed would carry the name of his father. Through this chain of unexpected events, “all who heard” began to take notice and wonder…what then will this child become?

This seems to be a timeless question when in the presence of new life. It’s a question of wonder and awe; of expectation and hope; and also of unknowns and uncertainty.

As I am learning to become a mother, the following lyrics of John Bell’s song, Take, O take me as I am, have taken on new meaning:

Take, O take me as I am
Summon out what I shall be.
Set your seal upon my heart
And live in me.

In the very first days of Henry’s life and throughout the past months, I have continued to sing and pray these words over him: at bath time, bedtime or while driving in the car. I sing to console, to cheer, and to offer my deepest prayer and hope for his life. I also sing these words as a reminder to myself that his life is truly gift and mystery and that it is my job to free him to be the person that God is summoning him to be.

I wonder with Elizabeth and with all who saw the unfolding of these unlikely events (the birth of a baby to a woman once said to be barren, an unlikely name and the speaking of a once mute man), what then will this child become?

During this Advent season we expectantly wait and wonder. What new life will unfold? What then will this child will become?

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