I have been more fascinated than ever about the portion of the birth story regarding Elizabeth and Zechariah. In part, I’m sure, because I sit down intending to read the full story and end up stuck in Chapter One. There are beautiful truths, astonishing statements of faith, and the beautiful language of the speechless parents. Take the ending of Zechariah’s Song… the prayer for his son.
And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace. – Luke 1:76-79
How gorgeous. Can you see a new, but old, father, cradling his only son whispering prophetic future to him? What recognition his son would have! I believe that in that moment Zechariah knew about the camel’s hair and the honey and the grasshoppers. He knew about the “Repent for the Kingdom is near!” He knew his son would wander into the desert and disappear. But also, he knew that right then, he was in his arms. Perhaps being rocked to sleep. The language is both forthright and soft. Gentle and strong. “Prophet of the Most High” and “tender mercies.” “Give his people knowledge” and “Shine on those living in darkness.” Zechariah is a good father. He would lose his temper, to be sure. He’d probably flip out when John said he was going to the desert. He’d be frustrated nearly to the point of yelling with all of John’s doddling. He’d wonder if he was going to get more than 5 hours of sleep ever again. Yet, he knew his son would herald the grace and peace of the Most High. He knew that he was now inextricably linked to the forgiveness of sins, even in a sideways way. Grace, peace, mercy, and joy were coming to his people.