Read St. Luke 1:57-80
Almighty God, through John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, You once proclaimed salvation. Now grant that we may know this salvation and serve You in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. AMEN!
It is interesting to note the two reactions here to the birth of John the Baptist: the family and neighbors see that Elizabeth has borne a child in her old age, and then they see the strange circumstances of Zechariah being mute for 9 months, and only regaining his speech after the child is born, and they immediately wonder what God has in store for the newborn child. Zechariah, on the other hand, knows what the child will be and he rejoices over it.
The family and neighbors may not have assumed that John was the Messiah, but they very well may have assumed that John was going to be great. God does not do things by accident, and so a child born to elderly parents, and one of those parents losing the power of speech immediately before the child is born, and only regaining it immediately after the child is born, would lead many to assume that this is no ordinary child, and that he will do extraordinary things. He may not be the Messiah, but he will be awfully close.
Zechariah knows what John will be. He will be great, but his job is to point to one who is greater than he. Sure Zechariah would have liked John to have been a superstar prophet, or the Messiah, or king of Israel. But that is not what John was to be. John was to be a prophet and forerunner, he was to prepare the way for another.
No parent ever says that their dream is for their child to be the Vice-President, not the President; or that their child will be a Major and not a General; parents always want their child to be the best and the brightest. But for Zechariah, John being number 2 is ok by him, because number 1 will be Jesus.
John is not preparing the way for just anyone; he is preparing the way for the One who has been long promised from of old. John is preparing the way for the One who will save His people from their sins.
Zechariah knows what no one else knows right now: that John will be great, and he will be remembered; but he will only be great and he will only be remembered, because of the One who comes after him, who is Jesus.
Jesus will make John great, He will make him to be remembered for all time; not based on what John has done by himself, but based on what Jesus will do for John, and for all of creation in redeeming John and all people from the power of sin, death and the devil.
Never has being number 2 been such a great honor; and Zechariah knows it.