One of the biblical couples that we often overlook, particularly in their own season because they get lost in the coming Christ, is Zacharias and Elizabeth. But this faithful couple understood something about Christmas that we too often forget.
Zacharias was a priest serving in the Temple, and Luke tells us that somewhere roughly a year before the birth of Christ, his lot was chosen to serve in the innermost place of the Temple, to light the most special candles in the Most Holy Place. While there, the angel Gabriel came to him and told him about the son, John (the Baptist), that his wife would bear for him. And soon. Zacharias is so stunned that he has a few questions, and his questions render him mute for the duration of his wife's pregnancy, leaving him to hold inside of him all of the secret things that he knows.
Like, for example, that something big is about to happen. And we're not talking about an old couple having a child (God's done that so often by this point that it's old hat). Zacharias understands that his son is just the beginning of it all; something greater is afoot.
And although he doesn't know exactly what that looks like, except to say that the angel told him it has to do with the Messiah, he knows it's something.
His wife, Elizabeth, becomes pregnant with a son. She knows that in her womb, she is carrying a real miracle, a child long after her years of conception have come and gone. She knows that this is a gift of God, though we know not how much of what Zacharias knew that Elizabeth knew, as well.
Then, when she is well along in her own pregnancy, her relative, Mary, arrives in the early days of her own, and the baby in Elizabeth's womb leaps for joy. He starts doing flip-flops. He's dancing around in there, and she can feel every tiny little bit of it.
And she knows that something big is about to happen. The miracle in her womb is enough, but that the miracle in her womb recognizes something bigger in its presence? Stunning. Truly, God is about to do something greater even than this.
Although she doesn't know exactly what that looks like, she knows it's huge.
I think we could all use a good dose of the kind of anticipation that Zacharias and Elizabeth lived with. It's far too easy for us to think that we know the Christmas story. We know what happens. We know what's going to happen. There's going to be a manger because the inn is too full. There's going to be a star. There's going to be shepherds and wise men and, of course, a baby boy, who will grow up to be crucified, the Savior of the world.
After all, it is Christmas and that's how it happens. Right?
But I think what we've lost is our sense of just how big this is. Just how grand it is. Just how much greater Christmas is than a mere baby in a barn. This is the Son of God, the Light of the World, the Promised King, Love personified. This is God, come down to dwell among us for the first time since we walked in the cool of the Garden, and let's face it, the Garden ain't so cool any more; it's burning with sin and faithlessness. It's covered in dust and dirt. And He comes anyway.
Not just to die for us, but to live with us. It's something bigger than we could ever imagine, and it's happening. Right now.
This Advent, let us live in expectation of something bigger than we can understand, something greater than we can fathom. We have but whispers of it, even in a story that we think we know so well, and when we understand what truly happens on that blessed Christmas morn', it will blow us all away.