Many have tried to give a history of the things that happened among us. 2 They have written the same things that we learned from others—the people who saw those things from the beginning and served God by telling people his message. 3 I myself studied everything carefully from the beginning, your Excellency.[a] I thought I should write it out for you. So I put it in order in a book. 4 I write these things so that you can know that what you have been taught is true.
Zechariah and Elizabeth
5 During the time Herod ruled Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah. He belonged to Abijah’s group. Zechariah’s wife came from the family of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. 6 Zechariah and Elizabeth truly did what God said was good. They did everything the Lord commanded and told people to do. They were without fault in keeping his law. 7 But Zechariah and Elizabeth had no children. Elizabeth could not have a baby; and both of them were very old.
8 Zechariah was serving as a priest before God for his group. It was his group’s time to serve. 9 According to the custom of the priests, he was chosen to go into the Temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 There were a great many people outside praying at the time the incense was offered. 11 Then, on the right side of the incense table, an angel of the Lord came and stood before Zechariah. 12 When he saw the angel, Zechariah was confused and frightened. 13 But the angel said to him, “Zechariah, don’t be afraid. Your prayer has been heard by God. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give birth to a son. You will name him John. 14 You will be very happy. Many people will be happy because of his birth. 15 John will be a great man for the Lord. He will never drink wine or beer. Even at the time John is born, he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16 He will help many people of Israel return to the Lord their God. 17 He himself will go first before the Lord. John will be powerful in spirit like Elijah. He will make peace between fathers and their children. He will bring those who are not obeying God back to the right way of thinking. He will make people ready for the coming of the Lord.”
18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I know that what you say is true? I am an old man, and my wife is old, too.”
19 The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand before God. God sent me to talk to you and to tell you this good news. 20 Now, listen! You will not be able to talk until the day these things happen. You will lose your speech because you did not believe what I told you. But these things will really happen.”
21 Outside, the people were still waiting for Zechariah. They were surprised that he was staying so long in the Temple. 22 Then Zechariah came outside, but he could not speak to them. So they knew that he had seen a vision in the Temple. Zechariah could not speak. He could only make signs to them. 23 When his time of service as a priest was finished, he went home.
24 Later, Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant. She did not go out of her house for five months. Elizabeth said, 25 “Look what the Lord has done for me! My people were ashamed of me, but now the Lord has taken away that shame.”
The story of Zechariah and Elizabeth and their miraculous pregnancy occurs before the start of our Christmas story but happens in direct relation. Elizabeth is related to Mary and the angel Gabriel also tells Mary about Elizabeth’s pregnancy. The story sets up the stage for Mary and her own out of the ordinary pregnancy story.
Many times during the advent season, the only time we talk about Elizabeth is when it’s mentioned that Mary goes to visit Elizabeth after her encounter with the angel Gabriel. But the reality is that Mary was provided with a mentor in Elizabeth. Elizabeth is older, well respected, the wife of a priest, family to Mary, and also pregnant.
Mary isn’t asked to go through the experience on her own. The angel Gabriel helps provide guidance and answers. God provides Zechariah and Elizabeth as a safe space for Mary to be pregnant. Joseph sticks around with the help of Gabriel and also supports Mary as a fiancee.
They say it takes a village to raise a kid and there was a village around Jesus from the very start. Zecharia and Elizabeth were the start of the village.
Dear God, thank you for those around us who support us and love us like Elizabeth and Zecharia loved and supported Mary. Amen.
Focus for the Day: God Provides Mentors
Author: Rachel Dudley, Director of Children’s Ministry