The account of the birth of Jesus Christ, which forms such an important part of the church’s calendar, is actually mostly described in just a few chapters at the beginning of the Gospels of Luke and Matthew.
Over the next couple of weeks, we will move beyond the tinsel and tea-towels we remember from childhood nativity plays, and explore this Biblical account of the most wonderful moment in human history: the moment when God reached down to earth and set his glorious plan for our salvation into action.
It all begins with an announcement, but not to Mary. The first announcement came to Zechariah, Mary’s relative’s husband. He and his wife Elizabeth had no children and, like Abraham and Sarah centuries before, they were about to be blessed with a son they thought they would never have.
This son would be called John. We call him John the Baptist. He would later prepare the way for Jesus, and baptise him. He was a herald, a messenger of the coming saviour. The Angel Gabriel told Zechariah that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit even before birth!
And who were John’s parents? Well, we are told they were righteous people who obeyed God. Zechariah was a priest who carried out his duties faithfully, but they were childless and very old. I wonder how often Elizabeth, like Hannah, Sarah and others before her, had cried out to God for a child?
We know that Elizabeth’s childlessness was a source of shame and disgrace to her (verse 25) and yet this couple still faithfully served God throughout their lives. And in the end, they got not just a son, but a prophet who would be “a joy and delight” to them and many others. Sometimes, when God does not give us what we ask for, it is because he has something better in store for us that we could barely imagine. Let us, like Elizabeth and Zechariah, trust and faithfully serve our Lord whose plans are good and perfect.