Olivia Dear Thames
Advent: December 7
"Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free; from our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in Thee.”
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.
Advent is all about waiting. The Christian life is a lot about waiting. And the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah was no different.
These two had been longing for a child for years. They had prayed and prayed, asking God for a baby. Not only that, but these two were obedient to God. They were righteous people.
It's one of those stories that just feels unfair. Sometimes, it feels like the worst things happen to the best people, you know? The bad guys and the robbers are blessed, while the believers are just out here struggling and festering?
Elizabeth and Zechariah were not only longing, but they were also feeling humiliated. It was a public embarrassment in that time to be barren. They probably weren't getting many holiday party invitations or Christmas cards in the mail.
What did metaphorically arrive in the mail was their AARP cards, since their wrinkles and gray hairs were settling in. The barren—and aging—Elizabeth was still baby-less.
Until that angelic voice said, “Your prayer has been heard” (Luke 1:13).
All of that waiting: worth it. All of that praying: heard and answered. All of that obedience: honored. After years and years, God did not forget about Elizabeth and Zechariah. And years later, He has not forgotten you.
You may be continuously praying for a husband or a child. You may be asking for more friends or more money or a lighter schedule or a lighter mental load. You may be begging for a promotion or any kind of motion in your life. You may be lifting up the same family member, worried sick over how they're living. You may be feeling like the left behind, like God remembered all your friends and their cute families and their cute lives and their cute hairstyles but left you behind with your double cowlicks and your issues. You may be saying the same prayer so often that it feels like a waste to keep praying it.
Spoiler alert that may make you want to unsubscribe (though you probably shouldn't because I promise this all gets more hopeful): we are not promised that our prayers will be answered. But we are promised that God hears them.
Elizabeth and Zechariah prayed that same prayer for years. It must have felt ridiculous to keep praying for an older, barren woman to become pregnant. It must have sounded like a broken record. I can just see Zechariah saying, "Elizabeth, honey, the neighbors our age have great-grandchildren. Maybe it's time to let it go." It must have all been discouraging and lonely.
But God heard their prayer.
After all that waiting and longing and crying out, God gave them a son. After all that time and against all odds, God performed a miracle. After all that humiliation and desperation, God gave them a gift. He hears and listens and loves to bless His children, on the divine timeline He knows is best.
In Elizabeth and Zechariah’s waiting, God was preparing. And this answered prayer brought to life a baby boy, John the Baptist, whose purpose was all about preparing—preparing the way for Christ.
And in our waiting today, we can trust that God is still preparing. He is not MIA or taking a nap instead of listening to our prayers. He did not mute or unfollow or cancel us. Though his gift guide looks differently than our wishlists, God hears our prayers. As we cry out and beg and plead and long for Him to answer our requests, we can find hope in knowing that God hears every word, every syllable, and every letter.
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."
Years and years after the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah came to be, we still find ourselves waiting, and He is still up there preparing. But this time, it's with the hope of our coming King.