Day 5- John’s Birth Foretold – Luke 1:5-25
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 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. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 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. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 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.”
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19 The angel said to him, “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. 20 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.”
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
A key figure in the stories of Jesus is John the Baptizer. He is also somewhat mysterious, but these posts are not meant to be full-out Bible dictionaries, if you are interested in learning about John you can check out his Wikipedia entry. What is important to note is that various scripture prophecies speak of one who would come prior to the Messiah and the gospel writers see this as John. Luke especially emphasizes the miracle surrounding his birth as a sign that God is at work.
John’s parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, were OLD. They were old and had no children. This is a common theme in the Bible as we read of numerous women who were unable to have kids (and for the record, the Bible being an ancient document tends to see this as the problem of the woman, but that’s another story). Great women such as Sarah, Rachel and Hannah were unable to conceive.
Elizabeth is the latest in this line of women: old past the age of child-bearing, desperately wanting a child and miraculously giving birth to one. When God shows up, miracles can happen. Of course, as the story continues we learn that God goes even a step farther in the birth of Jesus. Previous miraculous births were to old women, in the birth of Jesus it is a young virgin.
When God shows up, the unthinkable and unexpected can happen. May our expectations be exploded this Christmas season by the love of God.