(Warning: In this little series of ‘meditations’ there are simply wonderings about what actually some of the people in the Christmas story felt. They are obviously based on Scripture but they are only wonderings, for we do not know. Yet, if they help us really think into the wonder of what happened two thousand years ago at the time we call Christmas, that will be good.)
An elderly lady sits and gazes out the window as the sun sets. She thinks of her husband who is in Jerusalem, serving in the great Temple. She wonders what sort of day it has been for him. He had left to go to serve as it was the custom for priests. His family was of Abijah and it was the time for his division to take their turn serving at the Temple.
What that involved she was not sure for he said little about his role, and yet the other day a message had come with one of the family who were passing through and who had been in Jerusalem a few days ago. It was a message from her man that at the drawing of the lots for the jobs to be done, his name had been drawn to be THE one who went into the inner place to burn incense. It was a special role which few ever had. Today he would have had the wonder of burning the incense, supposedly for the fragrance to waft up and bless God. Today HE had the privilege of personally blessing the LORD. What an honour!
As the sun set, she wondered how he had got on, what he had felt. As she sat there in the stillness of the house she was glad for him, for at least this was some small sign that God had not utterly abandoned them, and even as the thought passed into her mind she pushed it out again for its unworthiness – yet the ache of the absence of children in their marriage, was never far away.
It was a few days later that she heard a commotion outside. She hurried to the door to be greeted by several men, one of whom was her own dear Zechariah. Something about him seemed different; it was like he seemed to have a faint glow about him, but at the sight of her the two men with her husband started talking at the same time. Elizabeth, we don’t really know what has happened. He went into the inner place to burn the incense and seemed to be in there a long time. When he eventually came out he was dumb and has not been able to speak since.
We’ve tried to get out of him what happened but the best we can make out is that he saw an angel, but beyond that – nothing! Her husband simply looked down at her and smiled, but it was a troubled smile. “An angel?” she almost whispered. He nodded. “But why?” she risked asking. He mouthed something, waved his hands about and made a mumbling sort of noise. She would have to wait for an answer.
The day that followed was strange. Every now and then she caught her husband with a faraway look about him and then, when he saw her watching, he smiled a soft smile. Something had happened, something very important had happened, something that had changed this old man who she loved so much. He came over and made a grunting sort of noise and pointed upwards and then gently laid his hand on her abdomen. “Yes, I know love,” she murmured, “if only the Lord had given us children but it’s too late now.”
He grunted again and vigorously shook his head. Again he pointed upwards and then cradled his arms in a rocking motion and then nodded and touched her abdomen. There was an intense look on his face.
“Don’t be silly, you daft old thing, that can never be!” she found herself whispering. Again the vigorous nodding of his head. She looked into his pleading eyes. “Did the angel…..?” her voice faded away, unable to voice the unthinkable. He nodded vigorously.
Read their story again in Luke’s Gospel, chapter 1, verses 5 to 25.