In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years. Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
// Luke 1:5-17
Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth were very devout people. The Bible says they were righteous in the sight of God and they followed all the commandments. But there was one hitch: they were barren – Elizabeth couldn’t have children. In that day and age, barrenness was seen as a terrible curse, and it would have been presumed that Zach and Liz were at fault, that there was some sin that was hindering them from having children. But God chose them out of all the people in their generation to have a son who would be the forerunner to Christ.
So Zach and Liz didn’t receive the blessing of a child when they wanted to, and they lived a holy life probably believing that would help them to receive God’s blessing. But we see that was not the case; they were learning – as we also are learning – that the blessings we receive from God are forerunners to the true blessing that every human heart needs and is desiring; that is, Christ. We search for a blessing, God gives us the Blesser. We look for fruit, God gives us the seed to produce the tree. We look for a trial to be over so we can feel comfortable, God gives us the Comforter in the trial, so we can help others walk through their trial.
In the heartache of Zach’s and Liz’s lack of children God was making room for Himself. God brought great news of blessing, a promise for which they’d been believing for so many years. But with this blessing was a greater promise that their son was going to make a way for others to see the one-of-a-kind Son, the true Son of God, the one everyone was looking for, Jesus.
Many generations of fathers had felt the failure and heartache that Zach felt. These fathers were once sons, who had felt the hearts of their dads turn away from them in their search for fulfillment, only to find more heartbreak. And so it was and so it is, that the sons are born, they grow up under fathers who at one point felt the heartache of life and turned away. And these sons become fathers and they have sons, who see their hearts turn away from their children.
The cycle repeats, generation after generation.
Enter John the Baptist, a son born to godly but heartbroken parents. He’s the first son of a new generation – a generation that would no longer have their hearts turned away from their parents. Why? Because a Son was coming, a baby was arriving, the innocence of man was returning to the world. A gift to renew all hearts. A life to redeem all lives. A love to restore all love. A little heart with unending love inside of it. And so our children's hearts need not be turned from our hearts, because our hearts need not turn from our children. Our hearts have found new life in Jesus Christ; we have found no disappointment in the huge hope of a baby being born into the world. Our hearts have found unending love in the eternal One, Jesus.
May we see that the blessing we have today is only a forerunner to the true blessing we are called to have in Christ.