Summary: At Christmas we often talk about the birth of Jesus but this message is about the birth of John, The Story Seldom Told
The Story of a Birth
We all know the Story; we’ve heard it over and over again.
this is the beginning of the Christmas story and it has all the earmarks of a great story. You hear it this time of year in sermons, songs and read about it on Christmas cards.
Of course, it’s the birth of Jesus, and we all know the narrative. How an angel came to a young girl named Mary with news that she would be the mother of the Messiah. Her only objection was that it would be impossible because she was still a virgin.
To which the angel replied by telling her that it might be impossible under the laws of nature but that all things were possible for the author of the laws of nature. Including virgins having babies. Because while Mary would be the mother of the Messiah the father would be God himself. And while under natural law both mom and dad would each contribute a cell and those two cells would eventually become billions of cells by the time the baby was born.
But in the case of Jesus there was one cell and the miraculous. And in that is the entire mystery of the incarnation, Jesus 100 % Man and 100 % God.
We all know the Story; we’ve heard it over and over again. But there is another story, a story seldom told that is part of the Christmas Narrative as well.
I would invite you to stand for the reading from God’s word.
You see even though the Angel visited John’s father before he visited Jesus’ Mother, and even though John was born before Jesus was born, the story of John’s birth is a story seldom told at Christmas. And yet the story of John’s birth is not only a vital part of the story of Jesus’ birth but the story of John’s ministry is a vital part of Jesus’ ministry. They weren’t just related, their births, their lives and even their deaths were woven together with a common thread.
So, if you don’t know the story, John’s parents were an older couple by the name of Zechariah and Elizabeth. And we know quite a bit about this couple. We know that Zechariah was a priest, that they were good people, that Elizabeth was related to Mary, the mother of Jesus, in some way and we know that Zechariah and Elizabeth were childless.
And the childless part wouldn’t have been an issue if they were younger but we are told they were “old” and they had come to the point in their lives that they had to admit they baby wagon had passed them by.
Most of that is summed up in Luke 1:5-7 When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.
We don’t know how old they were but it was old enough to be mentioned, probably culturally in their fifties?
And the fact that they had no children would have been a personal tragedy in a society and a culture where children were seen as a blessing from God and compounded because of their birthright, they were both from priestly families and the priesthood was passed from Father to Son.
But they had probably had come to the point of accepting that children would never be a part of their marriage, perhaps they doted on nieces and nephews, but for the most part they had probably become fairly comfortable with their lives, and that was about to change.
If we keep reading, we discover that one day while Zechariah was serving in the temple he was visited by an Angel who had a message for him.
Most of you know the story, especially if you were here for Mother’s Day, but this is what he was told Luke 1:13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John.
And that promise is what brought us to the passage that was just read for us.
And while most of us think of the birth of Jesus as the beginning of the story, the beginning of the story really goes back to the birth of John.
In Some Ways, the Story was the Same
There are many parallels between the story of John and Jesus and they can’t be ignored. As a matter of fact, when Gabriel was telling Mary about the miracle that was going to happen in her life he references what was happening in Elizabeth’s life.