In Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus, he includes the story of John the Baptizer’s birth in some detail. In particular, he shares that John’s parents had been childless and were too old to hope for any change in their condition …That they [Zechariah and Elizabeth] had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years... (Luke 1.7)
Consider the reality of Elizabeth’s life. When we meet her, she was beyond the natural age to bear children. She had grown up and grown old watching other women bear children and grandchildren; she never had her own. She didn’t have her own sons or daughters or grandsons or granddaughters to hold and feed and teach and train. She was “very old” and had lost the chance to have kids. She was “left out” of that precious experience, and probably felt like she was on the fringes of her culture.
But God did not see it that way. God was doing something “behind the scenes” of Elizabeth and Zechariah’s life. When it was too late and life had passed them by, God showed up with his plan unfolding in his perfect timing.
You know the story, right? Zechariah was doing his regular priestly duties, in the Temple, as he would regularly have done throughout his regular life’s routine. But…And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John…” (Luke 1.11-13)
“…your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son…” Um, what? When it seemed impossible – well, when it was impossible – God was announcing a new work. A new life. This was totally impossible and totally had to be something of God’s doing.