The midday sun shone brightly in the southern sky. Rays of warmth washed over Zechariah's old coat to push out the last molecules of cold trapped there the previous night. The cot in the ancient inn where they always spent the night was comfortable, but Zechariah had felt his years that morning as he mounted his burro for the final miles into Jerusalem.
The increased traffic coming from and going into the Holy City heightened their anticipation. Somehow the business of merchants and pilgrims helped to dull the harsh awareness of the Valley of Hinnom to their right. The smell of the constantly-burning garbage made Zechariah think of the children who had been sacrificed there by the likes of evil Manasseh. The old man cleared his throat and spat, as if he could rid himself of the smell and the thoughts. How could the Eternal give babies to those who hurt them and close the womb of the righteous? Zechariah wasn't sure he would ever understand.
The road grew even busier as they noticed the towers of Herod's Palace above the city's western walls. They turned the corner and followed the curvature of the hill near the Jaffa Gate. Zechariah's heart quickened as he anticipated the renewed fellowship with some of his closest friends. They had all served in the order of their ancestor Abijah since they were young. Today they would meet at the priest's lodgings and catch up with the latest news from their regions and families as they rested from their journeys. Tomorrow they would prepare their hearts for the week of service that would follow.
"I wonder what will be their response when I tell them Elizabeth's sad news," Zechariah mumbled to himself. Some of the more critical in his order would surely say, "One of you has sinned if the Eternal has judged you thus!" Another would add, "What is wrong that the Lord is blocking your prayers, Zechariah?" Still others would quietly come to him and tell him of some new treatment; a 'miracle cure' being done by a physician in their region.
He hoped his three close friends would just grieve with him.
To my readers: the events surrounding the birth of Christ are given extensive coverage in Scripture. The parts we don't always know about are the human elements, especially from the viewpoint of Jesus' participants. My attempt this Christmas is to stay true to the Biblical text, while shading in what it may have been like "between the lines." Please distinguish my ruminations from God's Word by reading the first few chapters of Matthew and Luke. My hope is that reading my words impacts you even a tiny percentage as much as writing them has impacted me.