There was this couple, the one “well along in years” that lived in the neighborhood. He was a priest and worked at the temple, and she wasn’t much unlike other women. Except she wasn’t a mother. They had no children. So who knows what she did with all of her time? They were nice folks, seemed to be like the rest of us. But there was that one thing. That one thing that made them stand out. The lack of a big family thing.
It shouldn’t be a big deal. But it was. It was a really big deal. No children? I mean, c’mon, isn’t that what God told us to do? Get married. Have families. Pass on the Jewish faith. It’s what we’ve done for centuries. Land and people. Get with the program. Especially folks like them. The people who were from the line of Aaron. And they know that.
But they don’t have any children. Rumor is that they wanted to be parents. Rumor is that they prayed and prayed and prayed to be have a baby. Alas, it just didn’t happen. Now she’s pretty old, so it’s unlikely. All of her relatives, neighbors, friends – they all have children. But she doesn’t. You can’t help but wonder what’s wrong or if they somehow made God mad and we just don’t know the whole story…
Zachariah and Elizabeth. Luke chapter one. They’re good Jewish folks who lived in Israel about 2000 years ago. People who probably expected to get married, have children and pass on the faith. That’s just what they were suppose to do. Especially women. Men have other things to do, like Aaron, but Elizabeth, she was suppose to be a mom.
But their story didn’t quite read like that; Elizabeth never got pregnant.
They sat on the sidelines watching everyone they knew pass them by, lap after lap after lap on the playground of life. They waited and wondered, praying and hoping for a miracle. Yet then they probably stopped waiting and wondering, praying and hoping at some point. She was too old. It would have felt silly or pointless.
Nevertheless, the disappointment and embarrassment of being childless would remain. That wouldn’t go away. Even though they were older and wiser and had [maybe?] come to terms with how things would be, it wouldn’t hurt less. It wouldn’t raise fewer questions by newcomers and visitors. And it wouldn’t give Elizabeth a new purpose in her family or community. It just wouldn’t.
But this is where the story gets good. This is where the readers and onlookers were caught by surprise with what happens next. All because this is where the God of the Universe who created them and everything else in it takes his pen and starts to edit the not-so-predictibable-anyore ending, adding hope and grace and wonder to the stale, lifeless pages.
Zachariah goes to work, probably not expecting much from this ordinary day where the extraordinary interrupts him. An angel tells him that his prayer has been heard. An angel delivers hope. And an angel brings the news that his wife will have a son. It’s unfathomable and wonderful and only something that the Lord could do because it was logically, physically, realistically not gonna happen.
The story of Christmas is a story of life interrupted. Life interrupted by hope. Hope found in Jesus. Hope for redemption, hope for healing, hope for stories with better endings…especially endings that we can’t predict because it looks different than it would if we were left up to ourselves to write the ending. A hope that can truly only be found when God interrupts the ordinary with his extraordinary love.