December 16 – Joy and Gladness

“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. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord.” Luke 1:13b-15a (ESV)

We focus this time of the year mostly on the miraculous birth of Jesus the Messiah. He was the fulfillment of a promise made when only two humans lived on this earth. If we study the whole story, especially as Luke recounted it, we know of another miraculous birth⸺one of another kind that was also a fulfillment of a promise. The promise of one who would proceed Jesus and prepare the way for him. Zechariah and Elizabeth loved and served the Lord God but had no children. This grieved them both and they prayed earnestly for a child. Elizabeth had been unable to become pregnant and bear a child. Unable that is until God sent His angel messenger to tell Zechariah that his prayer would be answered. And it was. Difficult for Zechariah to believe. Like us, we might pray and then fail to expect to see the prayer answered⸺even in ways greater than we imagine. But God fulfills his promises and this promise had been made through the prophet Malachi some 430 years before its fulfillment. Malachi 4:5-6. It was not long before Elizabeth conceived the baby to be John the Baptizer.