Elizabeth and Zechariah had the conversation many times, but they never found an answer to their question. Why had they never been able to have children? Most likely, people had judged them for their barren condition, especially Elizabeth, and many had been rude to her, saying hurtful things.
Disappointment is that moment when all the negative emotions rush in on us and overwhelm us. The things we had hoped for have not been realized, and what we have is not what we wanted. We immediately feel a sense of failure and diminished self-worth. We feel helpless and useless, and we think we cannot go on. Zechariah and Elizabeth remained faithful to God in spite of that overwhelming disappointment. Ultimately, they experienced God’s intervention as God answered their prayer and gave them a son.
Zechariah was one of over 8,000 priests living in Israel at the time of Christ’s birth. Some 56 priests served in the temple each day, and Zechariah was chosen by lot to make the incense offering—a privilege of a lifetime. When he entered the Holy Place, he was startled to see an angel of the Lord standing there, and he was gripped with fear (Luke1:11-12). The angel was Gabriel, the same angel that had appeared to Daniel 500 years earlier (Dan 8:16). Gabriel on both occasions announced the coming of the Messiah and the events surrounding his arrival.
Gabriel delivered a message from God for Zechariah and Elizabeth. He told them their prayer had been heard—a prayer they had been praying for decades. He announced to them that Elizabeth would have a son and they should name him John. He foretold John’s ministry to Israel would be a ministry to families. John would turn parents’ hearts toward their children and toward God. He would prepare people for the coming of the Lord (Luke 1:13-17).
Nathanael Olson was a Wyoming sheepherder who wrote Toscanini, the famed conductor in New York City. “Dear Mr. Toscanini,” the sheepherder wrote. “Each Sunday night I enjoy listening to you conducting the orchestra in New York City. It is lonely out here. My only comfort is my battery radio and my old fiddle. Winter is coming, and then I won’t be able to get into town. My batteries will be dead by spring. This means that soon my only comfort will be my fiddle. However, it desperately needs a tuning. Would you be so kind as to sound the note “A” next Sunday night so I can be sure my fiddle is up to standard pitch?” Toscanini’s announcer read this letter over the radio the following Sunday and said: “Now ladies and gentlemen, for the man in Wyoming, here is an ‘A.’” The pianist sounded the note and listeners visualized what was happening over 2,000 miles away—a lonely man busily tuning four strings to match the pitch being sounded in New York City.
In many ways Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son, John, would be God’s letter “A” sent from heaven to tune our hearts for the coming of the Messiah. In this world it is easy for our hearts to get out of tune—we need people like John to point us toward heaven so we can be ready to receive God’s greatest gift—Jesus!