5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”
19 And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. 20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”
21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple. 22 But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.
23 So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. 24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
(Luke 1:5-25, New King James Version)
Birth of John the Baptist
It was an amazing time! Life had continued much the same for the Jewish nation as it had for the past thousands of years, but all that was about to change. The prophecies were there in their Scriptural writings--the time would come when a Messiah would be born, but do you think the people of that day really thought it would happen in their lifetime?
The first change took place in the lives of Zacharias and Elizabeth, who were described as righteous before God. While Zacharias, a priest, was serving incense before God, the angel Gabriel appeared to him, announcing the future birth of a son to he and Elizabeth. But, there was more to the announcement.
For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Zacharias responded with doubt.
And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”
We can understand Zacharias, can we not? We, too, are waiting for the coming of the Lord, but do we really believe He will come in our lifetimes? If an angel came to us with such a message, how would we react?
Sometimes it is hard for us to relate to the circumstances because we are so familiar with the story of the birth of Christ. It is pretty evident that God chose special people for the task at hand. Zacharias may have doubted, but he showed implicit obedience to the instructions of Gabriel.
What an amazing time this is for us as well. How are we going to spend Christmas? Are we going to be so immersed in the "busy-ness" of the season that we hardly take thought as to its meaning? I would challenge you to take some time, especially on Christmas Day, to read through the Biblical accounts of Christ's birth in both Matthew and Luke, and to praise God for sending His Son.
Our culture is so far removed from the real meaning of Christmas, that we Christians must be careful to not neglect the impact of Christ's birth on our lives. Without Christ, there would be no salvation!
God Bless You,