Hi, it’s Shannon again, Cap’s wife. Before you get too excited, the title does not refer to God striking Cap. This Christmas we both tried our hand at a little creative writing, though we took the challenge different ways. Last week, Cap wrote in dramatic monologue about Abraham’s experience with one of the first Christmas prophecies; I, on the other hand, wrote Elizabeth’s story like I imagined she would share it if she were giving her testimony in front of a modern church. For me, it provided a fresh breath of air into a story that can become so familiar. Hope you enjoy, and Merry Christmas!
My husband and I both come from the high priestly line of Aaron, and we had lived our entire lives, before and after marriage, fearing the LORD and keeping His commandments.
There were also personal circumstances that tempted us to grief. We had no children. Though we prayed and prayed, the LORD seemed as silent and distant to our personal requests as He was to our nation’s troubles. Eventually I passed child-bearing age, and we were left clinging to the LORD despite our disappointments.
But we soon found that God had not been distant from us, after all, and He was about to break His silence.
One day, after his routine duty in the temple, Zechariah came home extremely excited—and also completely unable to speak. He tried to tell me what happened, but I couldn’t understand his signing. I found from the other temple priests that he had been burning incense before the LORD and had taken longer than expected. To me, this was an added trial in the midst of other cares, and we had to learn new ways to communicate.
A few weeks later I started feeling ill, and I thought that my health was starting to fail just as Zechariah’s speech had. However, I had helped other women in pregnancy and childbirth all my life, and my symptoms were strangely like being pregnant. When I made this comment to Zechariah, he nodded knowingly. The weeks went on and it became more obvious: somehow, despite being past menopause, I was miraculously pregnant!
As we learned to communicate better throughout the coming months, I learned that my husband had had some kind of vision foretelling my pregnancy when he was in the temple that day. He gave me to understand that God had a special purpose for our baby and that we were to name him John. After hearing this, I felt like our father Abraham’s wife Sarah: once barren, now blessed with a son of promise from the LORD!
I can tell you that I understand why God usually has a cut-off age for pregnancy: carrying a child at my age was difficult. But every little kick I felt from John was another answer to prayer, another reminder that God was not deaf to our struggles and that He was working. I just didn’t know exactly how yet.
When I was about six months pregnant, my cousin Mary, who had just gotten engaged, came to visit me. As soon as I saw her, John didn’t just kick inside me—he leapt. At the same time I felt the powerful presence of the LORD telling me, beyond a doubt, that the prophesied Messiah was in her womb. It was just as Isaiah had foretold: that a virgin would give birth. Here I had been waiting for any word at all from the LORD, and it was given to me not only to see my personal desires answered but also to see the long-awaited prophecies fulfilled! The mother of my Messiah was sitting in my house!
Three months later, my John was born. It was so exciting to see my neighbors and relatives reacting to the obvious miracle God had worked in our lives. The news of the LORD’s blessing on us was an encouragement to our faithful friends who had also been hoping for Him to speak once more to Israel.
When the time came for John to be circumcised and officially named, those same friends and neighbors were confused when I told them his name was John. No one in our ancestry had that name. They asked Zechariah if my wish was accurate, and Zechariah wrote to them, “His name is John.” Immediately my husband’s silence broke, and he began weeping for joy and loudly praising the LORD.
We see now that, like Zechariah’s silence, the Lord’s silence for all those years was a purposeful part of His plan to surprise and amaze us anew with his grace. We see now that the bitterness of my physical barrenness, and of Israel’s spiritual barrenness, can be healed in an instant by the LORD’s power.
Part of my husband’s prayer when he began to speak is now my eternal song: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation . . . to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant. . . . to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”
John’s name means “God is gracious.” Indeed, He is!