A man in silence a woman in seclusion- and all this is good news! Saturday, 3rd Week in Advent – Luke 1:5-25

In the book of Malachi God declared “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will PREPARE THE WAY before me.” (Malachi 3:1). That wonderful prophecy is what we hear of in today’s Gospel.

So far as Judaism was concerned, Zecharias and Elizabeth were obscure and insignificant people. They were likely seen as having no favour with God because they were without children. There was a tremendous stigma attached to being without children, one which the woman probably felt most keenly.  Barrenness was considered a humiliation and even God’s punishment.

The situation of Zechariah and Elizabeth as old and childless is presented in an historical context. Zechariah served as a priest in the Jerusalem Temple. One of the duties of the priests was to keep the brazier burning that stood on the altar of incense in front of the Holy of Holies. They would fill the brazier with fresh incense before the morning sacrifice, and again at the evening sacrifice

It is true that Zechariah was a priest  but not of the high priestly family but rather simply of the tribe of priests. At this time in Israel’s history this didn’t represent anything very prominent. There were an estimated 7,000 to 20,000 who were of the priestly tribe. Yet this was a red-letter day for Zechariah: he had been chosen by lot from the hundreds of available priests, to offer incense for the Jewish nation. His childlessness, the great grief of his life, would have been on his mind as he prayed.

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