Advent: Elizabeth and Zechariah
The Lord bless you and keep you. (Numbers 6:24)
The story of Elizabeth and Zechariah prepares us to receive the story of Mary’s miraculous pregnancy and the birth of God’s Son by first introducing us to another series of extraordinary, albeit somewhat less spectacular, events. Elizabeth and Zechariah, much like Abraham and Sarah, were well past childbearing age when they had their son.
The news of Elizabeth’s eventual pregnancy was delivered by the angel Gabriel in a rather comic encounter with Zechariah, though the child who would be born to Elizabeth and Zechariah had an important role in God’s promises and plans.
Elizabeth and Zechariah are described as devout and observant Jews. They kept the Law as a sign of devotion to God. Though they lived outside of Jerusalem, on this particular occasion Zechariah was in the city to perform the regular Temple liturgy. The priests were divided into twenty-four groups who served for two weeks a year. By the casting of lots, one priest was chosen to enter the sanctuary and offer incense. It was usually a once-in-a-lifetime honor.
While in the Temple, an angel appeared to Zechariah. The sight startles him. He naturally wanted a sign to know that this message was truly God at work. And he was given one—Zechariah was struck speechless. When he came out to the people, it must have been humorous to see Zechariah making signs and gestures trying to explain what had happened to him.
The story concludes with Elizabeth’s joy at her unexpected pregnancy. This son was sent not only to aid God’s greater plans for humanity but also to address the hopes and needs of two ordinary people.
• God loves us and seeks us out, even when we’ve made mistakes.
• A life with God can have special, holy moments.
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