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.
Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and
regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both
well along in years. ~ Luke 1:5-7
I know this year Christmas will be different for all of us. The macro dynamics of a global pandemic
are affecting treasured experiences with family and friends. For many this has been a tragic season
that may include the loss of a job, the loss of a family business, or the excruciating pain of the
loss of a loved one. In a world turned upside down, we are invited to experience a new reality of
God’s grace and mercy revealed in Christmas.
As students of the Scripture, we are constantly asking…
- How do we meet God in the stories of the Bible?
- How do we take the material of the Christmas story, which involves the
unique culture of the first century, and apply it to our current realities?
One of the ways we try to study Scripture is through the interplay between a particular character
in the Bible and the character of God revealed within the Bible. As we begin to understand that
story, we then can see how God’s story is being revealed in our story. It can be said that God’s
story begins to intercept and interpret our story.
Without his story, our story will not make sense.
This brings me to Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-25), parents of John the Baptist and the first
characters Luke uses in the story of Jesus’ coming. Because of time and space, I only can touch on
a couple of brief ideas. I hope you can use this as a springboard to your own study of the text
along with your personal engagement with the Holy Spirit during this Christmas season.
How is it that the spotlight of this Coming of Christ drama shines first on an elderly childless
couple living in an obscure village in the land of Israel? The fulfillment of all of God’s promises
and the fate of the entire human race - the drama of all of this - is now focused on a seemingly
insignificant couple and how they will be used by the God of the universe!
God is certainly weaving his story in the most unusual of ways.
First, let’s look briefly at Zechariah. The biblical record shows thirty other Zechariahs before him, most were kings and prophets, priests, and Levities. His name in Hebrew means, Yahweh Remembers, a fitting tribute to this character in the Christmas drama. We are told that he is
married, elderly, and without children. The narrative will tease out a number of things about Zechariah in the following verses. But for now, this will serve as the briefest of introductions.
Second, notice Elizabeth, who will play a key role in the unfolding drama! We are told that she is
not only married but also that her family lineage is found in Aaron. Her name in Hebrew means, My
God Is the Absolutely Faithful One (my translation). She will have a child in old age who will be
the “forerunner” of Messiah. I hope you will spend some time in this narrative as the Holy Spirit
unfolds new truth from this godly woman!
Finally, we are told that these two are not only married but elderly and without children. This may
be more than a mere statement of fact. This may, in fact, be a wry way for the narrator to say,
“Listen closely… do you know any other married, elderly people in the Bible?” Again, we’re simply
trying to observe God’s story and the way it is interconnected in the lives of others within the
grand drama found in Scripture. At this point our minds may be surveying the biblical data for
other individuals that are married, elderly and without children. (Think Abraham and Sarah perhaps
-- the family that begins the Old Covenant might be a type of the family that begins the story of
the New Covenant. Just a thought.)
The reporting of the lives of Zechariah and Elizabeth may appear to be a mere tick in the Advent
clock, a seemingly insignificant moment, actually pregnant with meaning. Notice the preparation
that has gone into all of the seemingly insignificant acts found in the Advent drama. Then, open
your ears, eyes, and heart to the reality of what these events are reporting.
This is the season God saw as a time that was “full” (Galatians 4:4)
with each and every detail found to be significant and interwoven in the story of God.
Our current season may be a challenge (it is certainly filled with extreme chaos), but it is not
without significance. God, in his providence, will bring meaning and purpose as we look to the
light of his presence shining brightest in the life of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Needing a homework assignment to help with application?
What things might emerge from your story as you one day tell your grandchildren about God’s story
and the first Christmas?
May the reality of the Presence of Jesus be woven into the circumstances and seemingly
insignificant moments of your life during this season!
~ Supt. Chris Hill
Oregon Conference of the Free Methodist Church
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