Zechariah turned to leave...
11 Unannounced, an angel of God appeared just to the right of the altar of incense.
12 Zachariah was paralyzed in fear.
13 But the angel reassured him, "Don't fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John.
14 You're going to leap like a gazelle for joy, and not only you—many will delight in his birth.
15 He'll achieve great stature with God. "He'll drink neither wine nor beer. He'll be filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he leaves his mother's womb.
16 He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God.
17 He will herald God's arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened skeptics—he'll get the people ready for God."
18 Zachariah said to the angel, "Do you expect me to believe this? I'm an old man and my wife is an old woman."
19 But the angel said, "I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news.
20 But because you won't believe me, you'll be unable to say a word until the day of your son's birth. Every word I've spoken to you will come true on time—God's time."
(Luke 1:11-20 The Message)
The wonderment of everyone near the Temple was as distant as yesterday's sunset. Zechariah leaned forward and stroked the neck of his old burro as if the gentle touch might communicate this mystery to the beast. The burro snorted and trudged onward. They were many miles from the beginning of today's journey.
"It's one thing to hope my old four-legged friend will understand," the priest thought to himself. "But I have no voice. How will I tell Elizabeth? What am I supposed to do, O Eternal?" He raised his eyes to notice the cart of a flower merchant on the edge of town. After a brief exchange he climbed back up on the mule, not realizing the twinkle in his eyes.
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.