They were common, every day people like you and me. They could have been your next door neighbors–you know, the cute elderly couple with the candles in their windows every Christmas? You helped him shovel out his driveway, and she always thanked you with a plate of chocolate chip cookies. These two people, this couple, I imagine, where like that–only Christmas didn’t exist yet, and they were about to play an important part in it’s story…
They most likely met at a really young age–she younger than him–and he probably asked her father to marry her in exchange for a few of his best goats. He had a good job, he was a priest in the temple. They would serve God, obey His commandments, wait for the Messiah to come–and there would be babies! They would have a lot of children. The young girl’s father said yes, and the two were married. Their names were Zechariah and Elizabeth, and when they began their life together, I believe they had all the traditional dreams married couples have.
Then a few years went by, and no children. A few more, and it began to look like having a baby was not possible. Having children was believed to be a sign of blessing from God–a status symbol even. They prayed to God for children, but many more years went by, revealing that Elizabeth was barren. It had to have been a painful waiting, followed by a sad resignation. Yet, we are told:
“Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly.”
They continued on, serving God. They didn’t turn away in anger.
One day, long after his hair and beard turned silver, Zechariah was serving in the temple. The priests did their traditional casting of lots to see who would go into the most Holy place in the temple to burn the incense, and Zechariah was chosen. He entered the temple, and made his way to the altar where the incense was to be burned. Just as he approached, the Angel of the Lord appeared, standing just to the right of the altar. His heart must have jumped into his throat, his palms must have started to sweat. He froze in fear. But the Angel said:
“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…”
God speaks to him in a way that let’s Zechariah know, He has heard him. The Angel goes on to say that their son, John, is going to be special–not “My kid is an honor student” special, but rather “History-maker” special. John would be the one who would prepare God’s people for Jesus’ coming. Unfortunately, Zechariah was more stuck on the first part:
“How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
As if the presence of a heavenly messenger wasn’t enough, Zechariah looked at the Angel like “I think you have the wrong guy.” He hadn’t given up serving God, but he had began to doubt His power. He and Elizabeth prayed and prayed, but when he was told that their prayers had been heard–and were about to be answered–Zechariah didn’t believe God could do it. He had grown cold in his faith. He had stopped believing that God could do the impossible.
So, because of his disbelief, the Angel tells him that he won’t be able to talk until his child is born. It is as though, through the Angel, God said to Zechariah “Be quiet, and watch what I am about to do.” Nine months later, his wife became a mother.
Have you ever been in a time of waiting? Have you ever reached the point where what you are waiting for seems like it is never going to happen? Are you in that place now? Are you–like Zechariah–beginning to doubt that God has heard your prayer–and that He has the power to answer?