Have you ever longed for something? Ached so bad that you could feel it in your bones? Cried out to God and begged? Perhaps in the midst of it all doubted God and thought he was cruel at worst or just uncaring at best? You prayed and Heaven were silent. No, not just silent… This deafening quietness makes it seem like Heaven doesn’t care.
There once was a righteous man who was married to a righteous woman. They kept the Law. They loved God. They worshiped Him! But they had no children. They would have counted children a blessing. They asked God for this blessing, to be able to have kids. They petitioned Heaven, but they heard no reply.
Enter in for a moment to their life: As life goes on, so does everyone else. Nieces, nephews and even cousins are born. You watch as friends give birth and celebrate with joy the arrival of their sons and daughters. Some families seem especially fruitful and as they pass by there is a silent exchange. No one says anything out loud, they don’t use their mouths to speak, but they don’t have to. You read it in their look. The silent words of pity as they stroll through with so many blessings and your house has none.
You cry out to God. “Bless me! I know I don’t deserve a little one but you are a God who blesses! Our home would be a fine home for a child. We would fine parents. You who have opened wombs before, open this one!”
And you pray that prayer through your twenties, your thirties, your forties and on until you feel a little silly praying like that anymore because you know your body is too old. There marriage act itself would be a miracle these days, how shall their be a child now?
But there is one story in the history of your people where such a miraculous birth took place and so there is hope. This petition has become so well rehearsed and that perhaps you ask Heaven for a child each day as you go through your daily prayers. Or perhaps you ask with a hint of belief that the God who worked in Abraham and Sarah will work in you to produce a child as well. Either way, you still pray.
So then one day you are in the very act of worshiping God and there at the alter of incense is an angel. It’s a scary thing to be in the presence of an angel. When they appear they usually pick people up off the ground and tell them not to be afraid. This he does, then he says, “Your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will call his name John.”
When Elizabeth is with child she says it like this, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
These are amazing words because they allow us to see the unfolding drama in the stories of Zechariah and Elizabeth. While they were receiving the blessing of a child they were also receiving something more…more than they had asked. They were invited into the drama of redemption. The longing of their hearts and the absent roll of parenthood in their life wasn’t placed their by God’s cruelty… Just the opposite. It was a blessing. They would be parents of the prophet of God who would make ready the way for the Messiah.
The story of the birth of John reminds us that we are not the author of our lives. Our lives are given to us by our Creator. While we like to think we are the main characters in the story, we just play a supporting role. Even John himself would just be support for the real lead, Jesus. When asked about Jesus’ ministry John would say, “He must increase, I must decrease.”
But now we have to look at our lives through the story of John’s birth. Do we live lives of humble submission to God? Do we live in the greater awareness of His Kingdom? Do we see that our community, family, workplace, and perhaps even our bareness or fruitfulness is not ultimately ours alone but can all be used by God in bigger ways than we have ever thought or imagined? Or have we been busy with our lives trying to rip the pen from the authors hand and rewrite the script?