I never believed it would happen. My whole life I had been a priest, and I thought I would never get this opportunity. On the journey from our home to Jerusalem, my wife, Elizabeth, tried to give me hope, but I wouldn’t have it. I knew there was no way. Many priests had died without receiving the opportunity, and I am old. It was becoming less and less likely each year.
But there they were. The lots were cast, and my number was called. The number I never thought I would hear uttered from another’s mouth outside of my own. I would be entering the sanctuary to burn the incense offering before the Lord. I could only do it once in my life, and to say I was nervous would have been an understatement.
When the time came, I went into the sanctuary… alone. Outside of the altar, a crowd had gathered for prayer. Among them, my faithful wife prayed. I say faithful as she was not only faithful to me but also to our Lord. She understood the power of the Creator. In fact, while journeying here nearly a week ago, she told me that if I were picked for anything, she knew I would never be the same.
Elizabeth was right.
I stood before the altar. Breathe in, breathe out. I know how to do this. I know how to do this. I began the process, slowly and focused. I took my time to make sure I did it right. Careful, careful… I saw something move in the corner of my right eye. I turned. There was someone else there!
I was terrified. What would the Lord do to me? I get this opportunity once, and I mess it up because of this man! He had tampered with one of the holiest customs of our people! How could he? Why was he here?
But, then, as if he had read my mind, he spoke. He told me not to be afraid because he was an angel. He told me that Elizabeth would give birth to a son named John. The angel said that our son would be filled with the Holy Spirit and that he would prepare the way for the Lord!
My wife would have a son? She is too old to have a son. I am no Abraham, and she is definitely not a Sarah. And he would do what? Be filled with the Holy Spirit and prepare the way for the Lord? I don’t even know what all of that means. I couldn’t and wouldn’t believe this.
And I told the angel. I told him that my wife is too old to have a child – that it would not happen.
He responded, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. Now listen! You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”1
I tried to protest, but the words wouldn’t come. My tongue refused to move. I realized that I truly could not speak, and I tried to decide what to do. I was supposed to go out in front of the people and give the blessing, but… how could I without speaking? I knew they were waiting, and I had been in here longer than expected.
I can only imagine what Elizabeth will think. Is she already pregnant? Does she know yet? Questions raced through my head as I walked in front of the expecting people. I said nothing, and I surely looked like a crazy person. I waved my arms all around, made faces, jumped, and everything I could do to make them realize I could not speak. Anger sprouted on my beloved’s face. I had failed her and the crowd.
Eventually they realized, and a few days later, Elizabeth and I went home. It was a quiet journey.
When we settled again, it didn’t take long for her to realize that she was with child. I could tell she was excited, and, to some extent, I was too. For five months, she stayed by herself in our home. It was a silent time in our lives. I couldn’t speak, and she didn’t seem too excited to talk to a wall. Of course, I would sometimes write out what I wanted to communicate.
After the five months, Mary, Elizabeth’s younger cousin, came to our home for a few months, and, to our surprise, she was with child as well! She was unmarried yet engaged, but she explained that God had given her this child to be our savior. This is when I knew something amazing was at work in these two women!
Soon after Mary left, the baby was born! I was overjoyed for my wife, and I could see joy in her as well. On the eighth day, some of those in the town came to circumcise him. I could not hear very well either lately, so they waved at me to gain my attention. Eventually I understood they wanted to name the child after me, but that was not the name the angel had given me so long ago. I motioned for something with which to write.
On the tablet, I wrote, “His name is John.”
All of a sudden, I could speak once more! I began to prophesy and praise! I felt thousands of emotions. I felt the fear of those in the room. I felt the joy and excitement of my wife. I felt the Spirit speaking through me! Most of all, I felt the importance of Jesus and John.
I do not know all that will happen, but I am honored that God chose Elizabeth and I to be a part of John’s life. He will do amazing thing for the Lord!
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Read the Christmas series disclaimer.
We understand Zechariah may have never felt or thought what is told here.
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See A narrative of Jesus’ birth in the perspective of Elizabeth.
Cover Photo: Marc Cooper