A Monologue Based on Isaiah 9:6-7; Psalm 30:10-12; Luke 1:26-38
Good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you this morning. As you know, my name is Elizabeth. My husband is Zacharias, and our son is John. He has become known as John, the Baptizer, but I’m getting ahead of my story. Zach, that’s what I call my husband at home, unless he doesn’t answer me; then it’s Zacharias. But I digress.
It will help you to understand more about John if you know more about our family, so allow me to begin there. Zach and I have been married a long time. Both of us are descendants of Aaron, the brother of Moses, so we come from the family line of the High Priest who served our people as we wandered in the desert.
Because I am also a descendent of Aaron, I was considered the perfect wife for Zach since he is a priest who serves in the Temple. My name can be interpreted as meaning “My God’s Oath” and Zach’s name can be interpreted as “God has remembered.” Names are important. That will become clear later in my story.
Our marriage has been a good one. We love each other dearly. But there is always a kind of sadness that lurks in the shadows. Having children is considered a blessing from God. When one does not have children, it is a disgrace, a tragedy, regarded as a sign of God’s punishment. We had always lived our lives as holy unto God and we had prayed for a child, but we had grown old and both of us were now beyond our ability to have a child. My true friends reminded me of Sarah and Hannah who both had children when they were old, but I know that they were just being kind. I know that Zach continued to pray, but he had more faith than me.
Zach and I live in the hill country outside of Jerusalem. It is convenient for his service as a priest in the Temple. “How did he become a priest?” you may ask. Aaron had four sons, two of whom died. The descendants of the other two sons number 24. Zach is a descendent of Abijah, one of the grandsons of Aaron. All of them serve in the Temple during Holy Days, and then they each serve twice during the year. Zach serves once in the summer and once in the winter.
It was during one of those times of service that something happened that would forever change our lives. Zach had gone into the Holy of Holies, alone, behind the separating curtain, to offer sacrifice for the sins of the people. Suddenly, he was not alone. That was shocking in itself because no one else was supposed to ever enter. Zach was so afraid.
As it turned out, it was the Angel Gabriel, the archangel, the head of all the angels of heaven! He told Zack not to be afraid but to listen to the message that he was bringing directly from God. That was when he told Zach that when he went home I would become pregnant and bear a son. We were to name the son John. Well, although Zack had been praying for a child, this was not anything that he could have expected so he began to question Gabriel. Because Zack didn’t simply believe the message, Gabriel gave him a sign that he could not deny. He became unable to speak. That would remain so until after the baby was born.
When he came out of the Holy of Holies the people who were gathered around began to talk among themselves, saying that he had seen a vision. How great was the vision, they would never know.
He did come home as soon as his time of service was ended, and I did become pregnant, and in due time I did give him a son. Our joy cannot be described.
I must not forget to mention that during my pregnancy my relative, Mary, who is also a descendent of Aaron, came to visit me. As soon as she came into the house my baby literally jumped within me. I soon found out the reason. She was also pregnant, not by marriage, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, and she had been chosen to bear the promised Messiah. She stayed with me for about three months before returning home. It is impossible to describe the joy that the two of us shared.
As was Jewish law, on the eighth day after the baby’s birth, all of our relatives gathered in our home for the ceremony of circumcision and naming. All went well until we were asked what name we would give the baby. Zach was still unable to speak so I stepped forth and said, “His name is John.”
You would have thought that I had blasphemed! Such an argument broke out! They had assumed that he would be named Zacharias, Jr. or would be named for one of our other relatives. No one in the family was named John! They had assumed that he would be given a family name and follow in his father’s footsteps and become a priest.
As so often happened in those days, when women spoke up, and people didn’t like what they heard, they went to the father, to Zach, and asked him what the boy’s name would be. He motioned for a tablet so that he could write, and he wrote the word JOHN. Well, that astonished them, but what also amazed them was that as soon as he wrote the name, he was again able to speak. It was at that point that the relatives realized that the name for the baby was given by God.
Zach broke out in praise to God. It reminded me of how Mary had done the same when she visited me. I wrote down what he said. I’m going to give it to Dr. Luke to put in the book he is writing about the life of Jesus. Let me read it for you. It was so beautiful. He wrote,
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because God has come and has redeemed God’s people. God has raised up a mighty Savior for us in the house of God’s servant, David, as was spoken through God’s holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies, from the hand of all who hate us – to show mercy to our fathers and remember the holy covenant, the oath that God swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve God without fear in holiness and righteousness before God all our days.
And you, my child (John), will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. Because of the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
That’s been so long ago. Gabriel had told Zach that John should live his life as a Nazarite, a person consecrated to God. As a sign to everyone that his life was set apart for God, John was never to drink any wine or cut his hair. As John grew, we taught him what all of these things meant, that he was only to be filled with the Spirit of God, not any intake of alcoholic spirits.
John studied with his father and attended Hebrew school. It was important that he know the history of his people and their relationship with God. It was important for him to understand what God had set him apart to do, how he was to prepare the way for the Messiah to come to earth.
When he became an adult he left our home and moved to a home in the desert. John felt that he needed the silence and the solitude of the desert to be with God and prepare himself each day for his ministry. He lives a simple life, subsidizing his diet by grinding dried locust beans into flour and baking bread to eat with wild honey.
He spent much of his days preaching near the River Jordan and calling people to repent of their sin and be baptized. He was telling them to prepare for the coming of the Messiah.
And then Jesus came to where John was preaching and asked John to baptize Him, not for the forgiveness of any sin, because He was the sinless Son of God, but as a sign of his commitment to God and the official beginning of his ministry on earth. Such a moment! John felt so unworthy! After Jesus came up out of the water, the voice of God could be heard saying, “This is my beloved Son, hear what He has to say.”
That part of John’s ministry has now been completed. The Messiah has begun his ministry. There is no more need for preparing the way. John does continue to preach and to speak out for justice issues. I get concerned for him because Rome has now placed such a wicked governor over us. He has no moral values at all. John often speaks truth to power.
Zach and I are quite advanced in age now and we live alone. John has never married so we have no grandchildren to play in our home. We cannot complain. God gave us a child in our advanced years. God has used our son in a special ministry. We are thankful people.
Thank you for listening to the story of our family and how we have been blessed by God. God’s blessings come to all of us in many ways. I’m sure that you have experienced some of them too, especially now as you celebrate the birth of Jesus.