5 During the rule of King Herod of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah. His wife Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron. 6 They were both righteous before God, blameless in their observance of all the Lord’s commandments and regulations. 7 They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to become pregnant and they both were very old. 8 One day Zechariah was serving as a priest before God because his priestly division was on duty. 9 Following the customs of priestly service, he was chosen by lottery to go into the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense. 10 All the people who gathered to worship were praying outside during this hour of incense offering. 11 An angel from the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw the angel, he was startled and overcome with fear.
13 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayers have been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to your son and you must name him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many people will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the Lord’s eyes. He must not drink wine and liquor. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth. 16 He will bring many Israelites back to the Lord their God. 17 He will go forth before the Lord, equipped with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will turn the hearts of fathers [or parents] back to their children, and he will turn the disobedient to righteous patterns of thinking. He will make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? My wife and I are very old.”
19 The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in God’s presence. I was sent to speak to you and to bring this good news to you. 20 Know this: What I have spoken will come true at the proper time. But because you didn’t believe, you will remain silent, unable to speak until the day when these things happen.”
57 When the time came for Elizabeth to have her child, she gave birth to a boy. 58 Her neighbors and relatives celebrated with her because they had heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy. 59 On the eighth day, it came time to circumcise the child. They wanted to name him Zechariah because that was his father’s name. 60 But his mother replied, “No, his name will be John.”
61 They said to her, “None of your relatives have that name.” 62 Then they began gesturing to his father to see what he wanted to call him.
63 After asking for a tablet, he surprised everyone by writing, “His name is John.” 64 At that moment, Zechariah was able to speak again, and he began praising God.
65 All their neighbors were filled with awe, and everyone throughout the Judean highlands talked about what had happened. 66 All who heard about this considered it carefully. They said, “What then will this child be?” Indeed, the Lord’s power was with him.
67 John’s father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied,
68 “Bless the Lord God of Israel
because he has come to help and has delivered his people.
69 He has raised up a mighty savior for us in his servant David’s house,
70 just as he said through the mouths of his holy prophets long ago.
71 He has brought salvation from our enemies
and from the power of all those who hate us.
72 He has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and remembered his holy covenant,
73 the solemn pledge he made to our ancestor Abraham.
He has granted 74 that we would be rescued
from the power of our enemies
so that we could serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness in God’s eyes,
for as long as we live.
76 You, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.
77 You will tell his people how to be saved
through the forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of our God’s deep compassion,
the dawn from heaven will break upon us,
79 to give light to those who are sitting in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide us on the path of peace.”
Childless couples today often face high levels of disappointment and pain. If anything, it was worse in Bible times. Without today’s medical understanding of reasons for childlessness, most people thought of it as God’s curse on a couple. Yet through all that, Zechariah and Elizabeth held onto their love and loyalty toward God and one another. And if they’d given up, they would have missed out on the amazing (though still challenging) experience of parenting the Messiah’s prophetic forerunner.
Lord God, you have changed the world for good through the steady love and commitment of people like Zechariah and Elizabeth. Use my commitment, in ways small or large, to further your kingdom. Amen.
The decision to become a parent (or not) has long been the subject of other people’s attention. My fourth-grade self thought I knew what my adult life would look like. Graduate, go to college, get married, have babies--your all American, white picket fence kind of future was what I expected.
Fast forward to my early twenties. Though I was in a relationship, I was not married when some friends suggested we become foster parents. These friends had fostered many children and we’d had opportunities to support them over the years. When they explained how significant the need was for more foster parents in Kansas, and said to us, “You are both good with kids and have extra room in your house,” we couldn’t find a good reason to say no.
We went into the process with some very strong boundaries in mind. We had the capacity on our license, but we were sure we wouldn’t take three kids at once. We didn’t want little kids, and we definitely were not interested in adopting. Fostering some tweens/teens and helping them make their way in the world was what we had in mind.
Once we finished the required classes and completed our home inspection, our foster care license came in the mail after months of waiting. I saw it in the mail when I got home from work, and sent our caseworker an email to let her know it had arrived. About 10 minutes later I received a call asking if we’d be willing to take a 10-month-old little boy that evening. After such a long wait, those strong boundaries we thought we’d hold on to flew right out the window. Just a couple of hours later, I was changing diapers and humming lullabies to try to get that little one to sleep.
He was only with us for a few days. On the Friday when he was scheduled to leave our home to be reunited with his siblings, we received a call asking if we’d take three little girls, all under the age of six. We were asked to keep them for the weekend. Still out of touch with those boundaries we’d created for ourselves months earlier, we said yes without spending too much time looking for a reason to say no.
Many things about becoming a foster parent surprised me, but probably the most surprising of all were the assumptions people made about me based on my decision to care for children that I did not give birth to. I remember using a Groupon to get a haircut at a salon I had never visited before. Through the general chit chat the woman cutting my hair learned I was a foster parent. Her immediate response was one of pity--she whispered, “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry you can’t have babies of your own….” That and many other comments showed me there were far more people thinking about my reproductive system than I had realized! I can only imagine the types of whispers Elizabeth endured through most of her life. I was only 25, so to picture people scrutinizing my ability to conceive throughout my entire adult life until I was very old sounds overwhelming.
That weekend got extended. Those little girls have all lived with me for more than 20 years now. Our family has even grown by one sweet little two-year-old boy. Just like Elizabeth’s son John, my grandson Hezakiah has been a joy and a delight, and our entire family rejoiced at his birth.
A simple invitation from some longtime friends completely derailed what I thought my life would look like. I wouldn’t change a thing. I never had those babies I assumed I would have one day, but I also never needed to try because God had a far greater plan. We don’t have a white picket fence, never had a gender reveal or sent out birth announcements. My children and grandson look nothing like me, yet I often hear my voice coming right out of one of their mouths and it makes me laugh a little every time. With a house full of people I love, I am grateful that my heart and mind were open to saying "yes" when the questions mattered the most. I have no doubt that God uniquely gifted me to be momma and g-momma to these precious souls. They continue to do an amazing job teaching me about myself and the world, and it just wouldn’t make sense to me if it looked any other way.
I pray that you keep your eyes open to "yes" moments, and don’t spend too much time trying to find reasons to say no. I would hate for you to miss out on the beauty and joy that God has in store for you, whatever that might be.
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