SOME OLD TESTAMENT BACKGROUND
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel.
This is the old chant for "O Emmanuel". You can listen to it HERE.
our King and Lawgiver,
the Desire of all nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.
Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24; Luke 1:57-66
In the Bible people's names are very important. Names do not merely identify someone in a crowd. Biblical names tell us something about who that person is. "Isaac" means "he laughs"; the name "Isaac" echoes the laughter of Abraham and Sarah when they're told that the aged Sarah will have a child. The name "Israel" means "one who strives with God", and is given to Jacob after his night of wrestling with God. Jesus gives Simon a new name - "Peter", which means "Rock", a name as solid as the foundation of his confession of Jesus as the Messiah.
Today, Zechariah wants to name his son "John". The trouble is that Zechariah ignores the custom of naming a child after the father or grandfather. Zechariah was being obedient to the angel's message. However, the family responds in a way that any of us might: "We've never done it that way before."
Naming the child "John" points to the new thing that God is doing. "John" means "The Lord shows favour." As Zechariah sings in his canticle, a new day dawns. The Lord shows favour to all people. John will declare a new day dawning in Jesus Christ.
"We've never done it that way before" is precisely the point. As we move forward trusting in God, we, too, will see and experience new things in our lives by his grace.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel :
for he hath visited and redeemed his people;
And hath raised up a mighty salvation for us :
in the house of his servant David;
As he spake by the mouth of his holy Prophets :
which have been since the world began;
That we should be saved from our enemies :
and from the hands of all that hate us.
To perform the mercy promised to our forefathers :
and to remember his holy Covenant;
To perform the oath which he sware to our forefather Abraham :
that he would give us;
That we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies :
might serve him without fear;
In holiness and righteousness before him :
all the days of our life.
And thou, Child, shalt be called the Prophet of the Highest:
for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people :
for the remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God :
whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us;
To give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death :
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.