ST. STEPHEN’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH DECEMBER 3, 2017
Rev. Sabrina Ingram
CHRISTMAS LETTERS: ZECHARIAH
Luke 1: 5 – 25; 39 – 45; 57 – 80
My Dear Elizabeth, I’m writing to you because, as you know, I had a bit of a mishap at work today, which has left me speechless – in more ways than one. Given I’m a priest in the temple, I’d have never thought workman’s comp would pay off, but then, life has full of surprises. I know you’re very concerned for me, given I came home early from work but even though I arrived a bit stunned and unable to speak I have such amazing news! All I ask is that you believe me because, take it from me, doubting my word could have lasting consequences. Although as I think about it, believing me will have lasting consequences too – but welcome, wonderful consequences! Brace yourself Lizzy – we’re going to have a baby!! I know you’re stunned to hear this but I’m sure now it’s true. It’s quite the story but I can see you’re too excited to sit down to hear it right now, so I will tell it to you in detail later. But isn’t it wonderful! We’re going to have a baby – a boy! A son! My son! Oh, I love the sound of those words. Who’d have thought after so many years? Take a little while to absorb this, my dear. It’s truly a miracle. And while you’re taking it in, perhaps you could fix me up a pastrami on rye. I didn’t have time for lunch. Your loving husband, Zechariah
Dear Elizabeth, It might be a good idea not to be telling all the Yenta’s in the neighbourhood about the baby. Yes, they’re your friends but you know they love to gossip. Oh well, it’s a hard secret to keep – even for me – and I have no voice. I suppose the news is all over Jerusalem by now, anyway. I was going to tell you what happened; I went to work and it was like any other day. Attendance was good – the whole assembly of men were there praying and I heard there was a number of women in the Woman’s Court too. The priests did our cleansing rituals and prayers like we do every day. It was my sections turn to enter the sanctuary to offer incense so we drew lots, like we always do and I won. I hate to say I wasn’t very excited. I know everyone thinks of us as a righteous couple. After all, I belong to the priestly order of Abijah and you’re a descendant of Moses’ brother Aaron. And we do our best to live blamelessly by keeping all the commandments and regulations of the Lord but I must confess: lately, I just haven’t been feeling it. In one way, I suppose that doesn’t matter – feelings can be deceiving. It’s our actions that count. On the other hand the Lord doesn’t want our empty rituals, He wants our hearts as well. My heart hasn’t been in a good place for a long time. You know how badly we wanted a family and for years we tried but no luck, not even a daughter. I know it’s not your fault you’re barren; for many years I believed God would answer our prayers, but we were getting so old, I’d just lost hope. If I’m honest, I was angry at God. Here I was, a priest – and an obedient one at that – and what good had it done me? My co-workers looked on me with long, pitying gazes. Some whispered behind my back that I must have done something to anger the Lord or he wouldn’t have punished me like this. I know it’s not been easy for you either. If I’m honest, my faith has been faltering for some time. I’d given up on God. I was just going through the motions and yesterday morning wasn’t any different. I got the incense and went into the sanctuary and as I was standing at the altar, I had a sense someone was there, on my right side – which I ignored because I knew I was the only one allowed in, at that time. But then, I saw him! Elizabeth, I was so terrified I almost died of fright. It was an angel – sent from God. So, he tells me not to be afraid, and I’m thinking, “Oh sure, no problem”. My knees were so weak I had to sit down. He kept on talking. He told me my prayers had been heard and you would bear a son. He said there would be excitement and rejoicing at his birth because this baby would be great in God’s eyes. Even before he’s born, he’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit – a prophet like Elijah! Because of him, many of our people will come back to God; because of his message people will change – they’ll be more loving and holy. In fact, he’s the one who will prepare the way for the Messiah. Well, it was all a bit much for me. I didn’t mean to argue – all I said was that we’re pretty old to be parents. I may have asked for a small sign. Boy, that angels had a short fuse. I guess he was insulted. He seemed to think he was sign enough. Then he told me I wouldn’t be able to speak for nine months. When I came out of the sanctuary, the people looked worried, I’d been gone a while. I couldn’t talk so I tried to mime what happened. They finally figured I’d had a vision. So, that’s the story. Now, my Love, perhaps it’s time we keep that first commandment and Pru U’rvu (be fruitful and multiply). You may be getting on, but you still stir my cocoa and babies don’t make themselves. Your smiling husband, Zech
Dear Elizabeth, I know it’s been a long 5 months in seclusion and morning sickness isn’t fun. I hope when you say, “This is what the Lord has done for me…” you’re being sincere. After all, the Lord has taken away your disgrace. You may feel like a stuffed goat but you still look beautiful to me. By the way, you should give up drinking alcohol while you’re pregnant. I hear it’s not so good for babies and since ours isn’t allowed to drink anything strong throughout his life, he might as well start off on the right foot. And remember, Liz, I’m suffering for this too: I still can’t speak. Love, Zechariah.
Dear Elizabeth, I hear the baby is doing well. He started kicking when your niece Mary arrived. He’s a discerning little fellow, just like Gabriel said he’d be. By the way, I was wrong – apparently, one baby has made himself; tell Mary I’m so pleased with her news. Your adoring husband.
Dear Elizabeth, The baby is due any day now. I know you’re thinking of names and Aaron or Abijah would be traditional choices and yes, I’d be flattered to have him named after me, but it’s very important you name him John. I don’t know who John is either, but I don’t want to get on Gab’s bad side again – Z
Dear Elizabeth, What an exciting day this has been. The whole village came out to see our little boy. Such a celebration! Have you ever seen so much hair on a baby? I think he has your eyes and my chin and unfortunately, Uncle Moishe’s nose. But never mind, he’s a beauty. It’s been a big day. You must be tired. Get some sleep. Papa Zech.
Dear Elizabeth, Here we are – at the temple to have our baby circumcised. It’s so wonderful to know he will be one of God’s covenant people. I’m so ashamed of my previous mistrust and faithlessness. How could I ever have doubted the Lord? And even though I was faithless, God was faithful to us all along. I guess God can’t be faithless to us or he’d have to be faithless to himself and then he wouldn’t be the Lord Most High. I am filled with awe at what God has done for us and He’s about to do for our world. What an honour it is to know our son will be used by God to prepare the way for the Messiah. I know your mother is pushing to name him Zechariah but let me print it clearly, “His name is John.”
Praise the Lord, Lizzy, I can speak again! God is so great. Truly he is to be blessed. He has looked favourably on us, Elizabeth, but also on all his people. Our redemption is at hand. He is raising up a mighty saviour from the house of David just as he promised long ago when he made his covenant with Abraham. God is faithful and merciful. He will rescue his people. He will conquer our enemies and set us free. I hope we will always remember his mighty deeds and serve him without fear of anything or anyone. Who or what is greater? May we be a holy people; living righteously before our Lord every day of our lives. Surely, such a wonderful God deserves no less. I know I will never doubt him again. I will love him with all my heart and mind and soul and I will hold to his promises. No matter how things appear, God is still God and he doesn’t forget us.
And you, little one, you’re a prophet come to prepare the way for the Messiah, to lead your people to salvation by the forgiveness and cleansing of their sins. Hallelujah! By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace. I can hardly wait to watch you grow.
Dear Zechariah, I know you describe John as being strong in the Spirit of the Lord but it many ways he’s just strong willed. He keeps hanging out in the wilderness. His diet isn’t kosher – nothing but locusts and honey; his clothes are a disgrace – he smells like a camel. After 14 years, the neighbours are talking again. I know you tell me to trust in the Lord, but I just don’t understand our son – or the Lord! If John turns out badly, I’m holding you responsible. You and that Gabriel! Be quiet Zech – I don’t want to hear it.