Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
“… to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Do you hear the quiet excitement of those words? The time of the fulfillment of a promise thousands of years in the making is almost here. But before the Lord comes, preparations must be made. We talked about how Esther prepared to meet the king with fasting. John is called to prepare the people to meet the true King.
And to whom is this special child given? An elderly, barren couple. What an unlikely choice. But we have seen time and again how God chooses the unlikely. We have seen how God takes nothing and makes something. If he can take nothing and made a universe, he can taken a barren womb and have it bear life. Nothing is impossible for God.
Zechariah and Elizabeth had given up hope of a family, of a son to carry on the family line. But it didn’t make them bitter or turn away from God, for they were “righteous in the eyes of God” and God chose to bless them with this miracle baby.
The first part of the miracle was Zechariah himself being chosen to burn incense. He would have been one of 18,000 priests who could have been chosen for this once in a lifetime opportunity. Most priests didn’t have this chance. The odds of being chosen are only slightly better than a woman having a baby in old age.
Yet, these were the unlikely and impossible things God chose to work with. It’s where he always turns up – perhaps in unexpected ways. God is always at work in our lives, even when, perhaps especially when, things are looking down and out. But do we have eyes to see and faith to hear?
Let us pray.
Lord, you are good. You come to us in our worship and in our joys and you are close to us in our pain, in our broken heartedness. Help us to have eyes to see what you are doing. Help us to hear your message of hope, of love, when we have lost all hope, when we feel lost and forgotten. You are always there calling us to you. May our faith not grow bitter, but may our faith always be open to hearing a new word, a new dream, from you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Zechariah and Elizabeth longed for a baby. What is the one thing you are truly longing for in your life?
Do you have an impossible or highly unlikely dream? Where do you think God is in it?
Is there a part of your life that feels barren? Lay it before God in prayer. Ask him to breathe life into it. Be prepared that his answers don’t always look like what we expect.