Gospel: Lk 1:5-25*
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah, belonging to the priestly clan of Abiah. Elizabeth, Zechariah‘s wife, also belonged to a priestly family. Both of them were upright in the eyes of God, and lived blamelessly, (…) but they had no child. (…) Now, while Zechariah and those with him were fulfilling their office, it fell to him by lot, according to the custom of the priests, to enter the Sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. (…) On seeing the angel, Zechariah was deeply troubled and fear took hold of him. But the angel said to him, ”Don‘t be afraid, Zechariah, be assured that your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall name him John. (…) This son of yours will be great in the eyes of the Lord. Listen: he shall never drink wine or strong drink; but he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother‘s womb. Through him, many of the people of Israel will turn to the Lord their God. He, himself, will open the way to the Lord, with the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah; he will reconcile fathers and children; and lead the disobedient to wisdom and righteousness, in order to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Zechariah said to the angel, ”How can I believe this? I am an old man and my wife is elderly, too.” The angel replied, ”I am Gabriel, who stands before God; and I am the one sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news! My words will come true in their time. But you would not believe; and now, you will be silent and unable to speak until this has happened.” (…) When his time of service was completed, Zechariah returned home; and, some time later, Elizabeth became pregnant. For five months she kept to herself, remaining at home, and thinking, ”This, for me, is the Lord‘s doing! This is his time for mercy, and for taking away my public disgrace.”
If a woman was not able to have a child, it was often thought that it was because God was punishing her for some sin. But we see here that this was not the case. Zacharias and Elizabeth were blameless before God. They were not being punished. It took sometime time before they got a child. Zacharias felt it was even too late. And then he tries to give God a lesson in biology and procreation. ”How can I believe this? I am an old man and my wife is elderly, too.” He questions the message from the angel. What is clear wasn‘t because God didn’t hear their prayers. It wasn‘t because they were sinning and so God wasn‘t answering their prayers. It was because God had something in store for them beyond anything they could ask or imagine. They would become the parents of John the Baptist who would prepare the way for Jesus Christ. They had waited and waited and waited, and God had finally answered, in His own time, and in His own amazing way! God always keeps his promises. He kept his promises to Israel. He kept his promises to Zacharias. And He will keep His promises to you. In causing Elizabeth to become pregnant in her old age, we read at the end of Luke 1:25 that God took away her reproach. God removed her shame of barrenness. One of the greatest promises in the Bible which God has given to each of us is that, like Elizabeth, He will take away our reproach and our greatest shame.
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