I think it is interesting that St Luke starts his testimony of Jesus before His conception. John, the Baptist, was also a miracle-baby although not in the way that Jesus was. Luke wanted to start from the beginning and John was sent to prepare the way. (note to self: preparation must be important)
Zacharias, Elisabeth’s husband, was a priest so we know they were righteous people. He could not attend to his duties in the temple without her loving support. (Luke 1) Zacharias received a revelation that his wife would bear him a son. Actually, it was a pretty astounding revelation given by the personal appearance of the angel Gabriel. Zacharias wondered about the mechanics of how that could happen because they were “well stricken in years”. Younger people might wonder why Zacharias needed a heads-up about the pregnancy. Older people might think that he needed encouragement or motivation to keep trying for a child. 🙂 Regardless, Zacharias was given sort of a time-out when he questioned how this could happen. (Luke 1:18-20) An angel is standing in front of him telling him that it is going to happen and he questions “how?” In Zacharias’ defense, Mary also questioned “how?”
Although I’ve never had an angel stand before me, I’ve had some pretty strong impressions that I should do something and I’ve questioned it. So I can relate to poor Zacharias. Even a priest with many years of experience isn’t perfect. (there’s that lifelong learning thing again) No doubt he had many experiences over the next 9 months that testified of the truth of the revelation he’d been given. I would have loved to have heard (or seen) the conversation when Zacharias had to tell Elisabeth why he couldn’t speak. I’m sure that not being able to speak gave him more time to think. The only way he’d win an argument now would be by the silent treatment. hahaha It had to take at least a couple months for her to realize she was pregnant; maybe longer if she’d already gone through menopause. They might have been ridiculed for having a baby so late in life. We know she hid it at least until she was 6 months along. When she was 6 months pregnant Mary came to visit. Elisabeth’s baby “leaped in her womb” when she heard Mary’s voice. (Luke 1:39-41) This was the first time that John, the Baptist, bore testimony of Jesus.
Zacharias remained speechless until 8 days after Elisabeth delivered the baby. It is on the 8th day when they name a baby boy when he is circumcised. They automatically thought he’d be named after his father but Elisabeth said his name is John. That wasn’t a name in her family so they questioned the father. Zacharias wrote on a tablet that “His name is John … and his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.” (Luke 1:63-64) And he told them all that the angel Gabriel had told him about the child and about the Lord who would be born to Mary.
I have always identified with John’s mother, Elisabeth, because I am also barren. I have always had enough faith to have a miracle-baby; up until the time I had a hysterectomy (which was welcomed because it relieved a lot of pain). I am not being punished. I have been blessed with a different understanding of what it means to be a mother. Someone else bore my children for me. They are, nevertheless, mine. Sharing them doesn’t diminish my love for them. Every experience we have can either tear us down or can prepare us for the Lord. We have that choice. Family relationships seem to prepare us the most.