"In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years."
Years and years. Of Elizabeth and Zechariah waiting. Of being obedient to God. Of hoping and praying for a child . . . Yet, nothing.
This barren woman couldn’t possibly bring a child into this world. I mean, they both had gray hair and wrinkles. Their supper club was probably full of great-grandparents. But they kept praying.
There was no offspring to care for. No little life to love. No baby to rock.
Until that angelic voice said:
“Your prayer has been heard.” Luke 1:13
It was nothing less than a miracle. After all that time, and after all those prayers, God answered their cry.
The study notes in my Bible say this: "Their childlessness was not due to any personal sin on their part but to God's sovereign and wise plan." When we wait for prayers to be answered, it can feel like anything but God's sovereign and wise plan. It can feel like He is up there calling the shots, and we are just His puppets. It can feel like He is festering instead of listening to us. It can feel like punishment. But here, we are reminded that is not the case.
I don't know what you're praying for today: maybe it's a college acceptance letter, a job, a husband, or a baby. Maybe it's a sense of belonging or a deeper sense of purpose. Maybe it's healing for a loved one or healing for your own heart. Maybe it's for a situation that seems so far gone.
What Elizabeth and Zechariah's story reminds all of us praying and waiting this Advent is that God can do anything. He can give the barren woman a child, the single girl a husband, the orphan a home, the lonely college student a community, and the weary mom some needed rest. He can bring healing to the man in the hospital, hope to the woman covered in darkness, joy to the one in the pit of despair. He can do anything. Do you believe that?
Honestly, I don't always do. I'm more of a hymn-whisperer than a hand-raiser. I've been a little freaked out ever since I took a spiritual gifts test in high school and got prophecy. I was really going for the gift of hospitality instead. For a couple years there, I was worried my life was going to turn into a That's So Raven episode.
To all of us who struggle to have faith, Advent proves that God really can do anything. We love to put Him in a box that we slightly open on Sundays or major Christian holidays. We love to complain instead of to cry out. We love to walk away instead of to pray. But He is the same God He was to Elizabeth and Zechariah. And He can do anything.
In the riches of His mercy, God really does hear our prayers. How He answers them is part of a plan far more sovereign and far more wise than ours could ever be.
Henri Nouwen said, "Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary were not filled with wishes. They were filled with hope. Hope is something very different. Hope is trusting that something will be fulfilled, but fulfilled according to the promises and not just according to our wishes. Therefore, hope is always open-ended."
In Elizabeth and Zechariah’s years and years of waiting, years and years of praying, and years and years of longing, God was preparing. And these answered prayers brought to life a baby boy, John the Baptist, whose purpose was all about preparing—preparing the way for Christ.
Years and years later . . . We are all still waiting, and He is still preparing. But this time, it’s for all of us waiting on earth to again receive our King. And in the meantime, He can do anything.