and next, I hope you’ll spend some time with people who are prominent or
shadowy in the biblical stories of Jesus’ birth and early years. This week, we’ll look at one old married
couple, Zachary and Elizabeth, and one young married couple, Mary and Joseph.
Next week, we’ll spend time with the innkeeper, the shepherds and magi. Each
of these would have had a different story were it not for each other, or were
it not for Jesus.
All of these
people met God in their ordinary lives. When we think of them deeply, we find
ourselves revealed as well.
Elizabeth represent the true and faithful of Israel, who had waited ceaselessly
for the coming of God -- out there beyond their family and friends. As a priest,
Zachary knew the Scriptures, and was welcomed into the innermost part of the
temple. God’s messenger came to him in this ancient and familiar place and told
him that newness would break through in him.
disbelieving, responding in effect “I can’t. I’m too old. We are too old. You
can’t be serious.” But God was serious and for his disbelief, Zachary was
rendered speechless. Somehow he conveyed
this staggering news to Elizabeth. She believed. They came together and
together they waited – two old people whose youth was restored for the sake of
a child and a message. Imagine their waiting, their intimacy, their awe.
You and I
give birth in our later years. God comes to us un-old and familiar places and
says: “Newness will break in upon you.” In our older years, we do not give
birth physically, but we give birth nonetheless – to an idea, an attitude, a movement. Maybe we give birth to people who are already
born by letting them go or by encouraging them to use their talents in other
imaginative ways. As with Elizabeth, the new births of our lives need welcome
Joseph were tender youth who had ordinary and expectable hopes for their life
together: marriage, a family, reaching old age together, seeing their children’s
children. But all of this was not to be. God strained their faith and their
relationship to the limit. Both said yes to God, but not without an interior
Mary and Joseph
prepared or were prepared over a long time for the things that broke in on them
with apparent suddenness. They could only see this in retrospect. That’s the
case with us, too, Joseph attempted to reach a decision through analysis. In
the end, he paid attention to the dream. How important it is for us to pay
attention to our dreams.
has occurred to you about the mirror of these figures for your life and our world?