Zechariah, Luke 1:5-25, Advent Midweek 1, December 4, 2019
My name is Zechariah; I’m a priest, a Jewish priest. My wife is named Elizabeth. And this is the way I see it.
It’s been 400 years since we have heard from a prophet. And as a result, things have been upside-down in our nation for far too long. We have suffered under the corruption and incompetence of weak Kings, kings that turned us away from God. We have suffered under the brutality of the Assyrians and the Babylonians, and now we are occupied and oppressed by the ruthless Romans.
Meanwhile, we held tightly to the promise of a deliverer, a Messiah, who will set us free from our oppressors and establish a kingdom of righteousness and justice.
But the way I see it there’s been a lot of waiting and hoping and not much has been else happening, except injustice and oppression. But I’m an old man. I wonder if I will ever see things change. Will our prayers ever be heard?
Speaking of prayer, Elizabeth and I are both getting older and the dream of having children is something that we had given up on. Getting old has punched a hole in that biological balloon. We prayed and prayed for God to bless us with children, but the children never came. Did God hear our prayer? Slowly, the dream died. But the pain and disappointment has always lingered, and grew.
Being a priest, serving at the Temple in Jerusalem is the highest honor one can have. This too was a prayer of mine. Finally, my name was called!
My job was to burn incense, symbolizing the prayers of God’s people rising toward heaven. In that moment, as I place the coals on the incense, an angel appears and says “your prayer has been heard.”
But when I saw him, I was startled and was stuck with fear. It’s not every day that you see an angel, you know. But the angel said to me: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son.
What you talking about Willis, this angel has been nipping the Christmas eggnog a little early! I think it’s a little too late for children, but the angel continued, “and you are to call him John”. I was startled and shaken, and without thinking I blurted out, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
I thought it was a fair question, it has been many, many years. Maybe, I over-reacted a little!
Because, that didn’t go over to well! The angel looks at me with amazement, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
Then I realized, this is no low-level angel, this is Gabriel! Before I had time to apologize, boom! Immediately, I lost my speech.
Talk about bad timing. You see, normally when the priest comes out of the temple, he gives a blessing to the people. But I couldn’t speak. The people knew something unusual had occurred. And of course, I couldn’t explain.
It was like Gabriel put Duct tape over my mouth. I discovered something about angels; they like to have the last word! A word of advice to you, when you’re around angels, keep your mouth shut. Maybe it was God’s way of saying; I’ll take it from here.
And then, not long after this, Elizabeth announces that she’s pregnant. Just like Gabriel said!
I wanted to and tell all my friends how exciting I was. But, I guess I will just have to settle and post it on Facebook.
Six months into my wife’s pregnancy another piece of the puzzle appears. Elizabeth’s cousin, Mary, arrives for a visit. You won’t believe this but it turns out she also had a visit from the same angel.
Now, Mary is young. Not yet married but pledged to a fine young man named Joseph. But, Mary is a virgin! And Gabriel announces she’s having a baby too! Now I may have thought it was a miracle for me and Elizabeth to have a baby. But for a virgin to have a baby, well that’s just on an entirely different level. So, Mary needed to talk to Elizabeth.
As soon as she walked in the door and said hello, our baby John jumped in Elizabeth’s womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke such prophetic words to Mary. “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!”
Well, Mary stayed with us for 3 months, right up until the time Elizabeth delivered our baby. Honestly, since I wasn’t making much conversation, Elizabeth needed the company and someone to talk to! And Mary felt safe being out of town as the “scandal” of her pregnancy spread.
When it was time for Elizabeth to have our baby, she gave birth to a son. I asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, “His name is John.” I wanted no part of a run in with Gabriel again.
Immediately my mouth was opened and my tongue set free, and I began to speak, and praise God! Hallelujah!
Six months later Mary had her baby, she named him “Jesus”. By this time we knew, both our baby and Mary’s baby, shared something very special in God’s plan. We didn’t know exactly when things would start, or how they would turn out, so we just waited and trusted, and waited and trusted some more. Sometimes it can seem like God moves slowly, at least slower than we would like. Maybe we should spend more time waiting and trusting.
At least, that’s the way I see it. My prayers were heard. Your prayers are heard too, even when it doesn’t seem like it. Waiting and trusting only serves to make it sweeter. May all of our prayers rise to heaven like incense. Amen