“Do not be afraid Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.” (Luke 1:13)
God always sets the stage for His story, His narrative with a different scene than we would. An unexpected event. Jesus’ birth story, begins more than a year earlier while a temple priest serves is serving.
God sends his best angel to deliver a message. Zechariah is the priest chosen to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. “An angel of Lord appeared to him.” This angel told Zechariah not to be afraid, his prayer had been answered. His wife, Elizabeth would have a baby. He told Zechariah many things about this son whose name would be John. “He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children.”
Then Zechariah did what I think most of us would have done, “How can I know this?” He focuses on the how of the message instead of the promise of the message.
“I AM GABRIEL, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news.”
oops, yep, I would have probably asked the same thing. So, I Am Gabriel, proceeds to tell Zechariah that he will “now listen.” Literally. No more talking for you.
Gabriel tells Zechariah, John will be filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb. I think like Zechariah, I would have been overwhelmed. First, why me? After 400 years, why me? Second, filled with the Holy Spirit? No one had ever been filled with the Holy Spirit. Certainly not before they were born. Third, Elizabeth is a little old.
God sent John to prepare the way for the coming Messiah. From birth, John knew God’s plan for him. There aren’t any stories of John and Jesus playing together as little boys. They would have at the least met when their families traveled to the Temple. I wonder what their conversations would have been. “Hey, Jesus. Get ready!” “No, John, you are to prepare the way. You’re up first.”
God always has a plan. He sets the stage with those He chooses. Not the stars of the day. He answers Zechariah’s prayer. He shows favor on Elizabeth. He gives grace to replace their “disgrace among the people.” (Luke 1:25) God takes our rituals, our plans, and He shows us a better way.