19 December: Annunciation to Zechariah
Judges 13:2-7, 24-25; Luke 1:5-25
‘Then there appeared to him the angel of the lord, standing on the right of the altar of incense.’ (Luke 1:11)
We may be surprised by the beginning of the Gospel of Luke, which we hear today. This gospel is known as the gospel of the Gentiles, yet its beginning is steeped in the atmosphere of Judaism and its scriptures. The language in the Greek original resembles that of the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. The God who has been at work in the history of his people, is again responding to their needs.
In the past, he had displayed his mercy in granting children to parents past the age of child bearing. The patriarch Isaac had been the born to Abraham and Sarah; the judge Samuel had been born to Elkanah and Hanna. God had sent his angel to Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, and to the mother of Samson to announce the birth of their sons. The annunciation to Zechariah had greater sanctity because it took place in the Temple in Jerusalem, the holiest place in the holy city. Zechariah should have welcomed all this, but he did not. He was struck dumb; the people waiting outside never received the blessing for which they were waiting.
Our gospel passage begins with a mention of King Herod of Judaea, but he is not mentioned again. The one who is really king is the God behind the story. This teaches us to watch out for the active presence of God not only in the story of Jesus that Luke relates in his gospel, but in our lives and in our history.
Father, Zechariah was a priest in your service, privileged to be the father of John the Baptist. May we imitate him in his practice of prayer; may we not fall short as he did in responding to your word in whatever form it comes to us. Through Christ our Lord.