As we approach Christmas this month, we will look for those who found JOY.
Zechariah and Elizabeth, like Abraham and Sarah, had reached old age without a child. Why think of them at Christmas? Their story sets the stage in Luke’s gospel.
Zechariah was born of the the priestly line, so twice a year Zechariah and other priests in his division took a turn to spend one week in Jerusalem. They did jobs in and around the Temple, cleaning the brass bowls and gold cups, etc. One of their group would be chosen by lot to enter the holy place.
On this occasion, Zechariah was chosen for this distinct honor to supply the incense before the morning sacrifices and after the evening sacrifices.
When he walked into the holy place for his special duty,
. . . an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. Zechariah was startled and gripped with 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 give him the name John. He will be a joy and a delight to you, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.” Luke 1:11-15a
The angel also said that this son was to take special Nazarite vows and would be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. He will bring many people back to the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah! Wow. Surely this made Zechariah rejoice with gladness. But, with doubt, he asked the angel,
“How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Luke 1:18
The angel let Zechariah know right away who he was talking to.
“I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God and I have been sent to tell you the 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.” Luke 1:19-20
The people outside were wondering why Zechariah was in the holy place so long. When he came out, he gestured trying to tell them what had happened. They realized he had seen a vision.
We aren’t told Elizabeth’s immediate reaction, but we can imagine her great JOY after all these years of wanting a child. Obviously something miraculous had taken place.
After she gave birth, the people assumed they would name the baby after his father. “No!” she said. “His name will be John.” The people questioned Zechariah. He wrote on a tablet, “His name is John.”
With that declaration, that obedience, he immediately was able to speak and he praised God. His JOY burst forth into a song, the words recorded in Luke 2:67-79.
When John grew to become a man, he was known as John the Baptist because he preached repentance and baptized many. He proclaimed the coming of the Messiah.
~ Joyce ~