Luke 1:59-66. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
What were they for you or your kids? Not surprisingly, variations of “dad” and “mom” top the list, with 52% of parents citing their kid’s first word as a form of “dad,” and 35% offering up “mom.” Before all you dads get too puffed up, know that this is probably because the “d” sound is easier for babies to make than the “m” sound. Other high-frequency first words are ones babies hear us say a lot, most which begin with consonants that are also easier to say than vowels: “hi,” “dog,” “ball,” and “no.” But just as it may be amusing to watch a child learn to speak, it also comes with another fact, stated best by an unknown poet: “Words are seeds that do more than blow around. They land in our hearts and not the ground. Be careful what you plant and careful what you say. You might have to eat what you planted one day."
Words have more power than we often realize.
Zechariah had been mute for nine months. Nine whole months of frustrating moments with his pregnant wife, quiet dinners, lack of political commentary, and writing on tablets. He had probably rehearsed over and over in his mind that day he had encountered the angel in the Temple. But then after the birth and during the circumcision/name-reveal party of his son, he confirms the name his wife reveals. Immediately, his voice is back—and what are his first words? Luke tells us he praises God. And the whole neighborhood echoes what they have seen and now what they have heard. They draw close to see what God is doing here. Perhaps even some of them eventually follow John, then Jesus.
At a turn of events, the first words out of our mouths can build up and inspire, or they can destroy and turn away. They can praise God or curse God. The words you write or speak to others can leave a huge impact and create a lasting memory--either good or bad--so it's extremely important to choose them wisely.
But before you speak:
Are you listening?