Before the angel of God appeared to Zechariah and then to Mary and to Joseph, God’s voice had been silent for 400 years. His people could trace God’s scarlet cord of hope from Adam through the prophets, and they knew the promise that a messiah would come to make all things right again. But one century spanned into the next, and their hope for a rescuer to break into their world grew dim...
Mary returned to Nazareth, and in time, it became known that she was with child. While she knew her conception was through the Holy Spirit, the people around her assumed she had been unfaithful to Joseph, the one who was bound to her legally but not yet physically. Joseph, a carpenter by trade, had spent hours excitedly preparing their home for their long-awaited union. And then this. This news that Mary was pregnant — and he knew he was not the father.
We have traditionally made cookies around the holidays, including at Christmastime, to share with our neighbors. While the business of life can make it hard to connect with those in such close proximity to us, making and delivering cookies is an easy way to bless your neighbors and break the ice, so you can say “hi” at the mailbox, invite them over for dinner, or talk to them about Jesus.
In the days when Elizabeth had emerged from hiding with a baby bump announcing her good news of God granting her conception, a sweet relative named Mary was having her own surprise visit from the angel Gabriel. “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you,” he declared to this young maiden of Nazareth, a community of peasants who worked the fields and lived under the crushing oppression of Rome.
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. In an honor-shame culture in which children were a sign of blessing, Elizabeth lived barren, wearing a stigma that God was somehow displeased with her. But as God displayed in the stories of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, Elkanah and Hannah, God was in the business of surprising His people when the gray hairs came and any hope of fertility had vanished. God was about to move in a mighty way.