Whenever I read the narrative as recorded in Luke 1, my sympathies go out to Zacharias, the priest. Of he and his wife Elisabeth we are told: “And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years” (vv. 6-7, KJV). However, one day while Zacharias “executed the priestly office before God . . . in the temple of the Lord” an angel of the Lord appeared unto him with the pronunciation that “thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John” among other things (vv. 13-17). Of course, Zacharias did what anyone in his position with an elderly wife would do. He “said unto the angel, ‘Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years'” (v. 18). In other words, “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman” (The Message). Luke continues, “And the angel answering said unto him, ‘I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season'” (vv. 19-20). Poor Zacharias; struck dumb for several months because he did not believe the angel of the Lord.
However, who could have blamed him for asking the obvious? Elisabeth was so dumbfounded that when she did conceive, she “hid herself five months” (v. 24) so that, as Bible Commentator Adam Clarke puts it, “she might have the fullest proof of the accomplishment of God’s promise before she appeared in public, or spoke of her mercies.” Both of them looked at the circumstances of their age and though they were both righteous and blameless before God, faith did not come easily in the face of the facts. It is interesting to note that six months after appearing to Zacharias, the same angel “was sent from God” to Nazareth, this time “to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary” (vv. 26-27). After the pronunciation that she would conceive and bring for a son who was to be called JESUS, among other things, Mary too responded in a manner that was consistent with the facts of her situation at the time: “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (v. 34). The angel’s response to the question was not a pronunciation of dumbness or any other affliction but one of assurance: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible” (vv. 35-37).
What can we take away from the narratives? One of the most important to me is the reminder that God does not allow the facts of our circumstances to get in the way of what He wants to do in our lives. Sickness? No problem! Born on the wrong side of the tracks? No problem! Messed up life? No problem! No degrees? No problem! Whatever the facts of our circumstances, they are no problem for God! Ask Abram and Sarah and the many men and women throughout the ages in whose lives He has worked when the facts were against them. The truth of the matter is that He is still the same God and as it was then, it is still true today. Absolutely nothing that is consistent with His nature is impossible with Him. He is omnipotent; He has all power to do whatever He purposes to do subject only to the restraints He puts on Himself. Do not let the facts of your circumstances get in the way of the truth of God’s abilities. In the big scheme of things, the facts are no match for this truth.
From my house to yours, a very Merry Christmas.