Luke 1:5-8,11-15,18-20,24-25 NRSVue
5In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was descended from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. 7But they had no children because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.
8Once when he was serving as priest before God during his section’s turn of duty, 11Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified, and fear overwhelmed him. 13But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 18Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I know that this will happen? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” 19The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”
24After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25“This is what the Lord has done for me in this time, when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”
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Some thoughts on this scripture
Zechariah, you lived a dedicated and blameless life. You served on that day as a priest before God, as on any other day. You attended scrupulously to the rites of purification. But nothing prepared you for a direct encounter with God. You never thought that your hope of a child would be answered. Am I a bit like you?’
How much do we live life by simply doing what needs to be done or what is expected of us? Can we own our lives more, claiming the grace of the moment? Can we address our God as if we know that God can hear us? Can we love our dear ones as if we might never see them again? Poor Zechariah, given a second chance, might have hugged the angel, because the encounter promised him ‘joy and gladness’.