God Sends an Angel to Elisabeth and Zacharias
by Mrs. Thelma Jenkins
By the time you read this we shall be getting ready for Christmas, so I will tell you about another of the messages that God sent by one of His angels.
There were two people called Elisabeth and Zacharias and they were very, very old. They loved the Lord God and tried to do all the things that He had commanded. They really tried to do His will "on earth as it is in heaven" (which is what we pray in the Lord's prayer). Of course, they did wrong things sometimes, as we all do, because we are all sinners, but you could say that they tried harder than most people to please God.
There was one thing that they wanted very much, something they had wanted for many, many years, and that was a baby boy. They would have been glad to have a baby girl, but they specially wanted to have a baby boy. At last they stopped praying. Why was that? Because they knew they were too old to have a baby. There is so much work to do with a baby, that very old ladies don't have babies, do they? Elisabeth and Zacharias grew older and older. The Bible says they were "well-stricken in years" which means very old - perhaps they had white hair and were beginning to find it difficult to walk.
Then, when they were very old, something amazing happened. Zacharias was a priest - a man who served God in the temple (which is like a very beautiful church). One day, he was burning some sweet-smelling incense in the temple when he had the fright of his life! He looked up and there was a bright, shining angel standing quite near him. He was very much afraid. We know that because the first thing the angel said was "Fear not, Zacharias!" Then the angel gave him God's message. He said,"You thought that God had not heard your prayers, didn't you? But He has heard them and He has sent me to tell you that Elisabeth is going to have a baby boy! You are to call his name JOHN and when he grows up, he will be a very great servant of the Lord God. He will preach to all the people and make them ready for when the Saviour comes. You will be glad and lots of people will rejoice when he is born."
Then Zacharias did a dreadful thing! He said, "How shall I know that this is true? I am an old man and my wife is very old also. We're much too old to have a baby." The angel replied, using some of the most beautiful words in the Bible. He said, "I am Gabriel that stands in the Presence of God. He has sent me to tell you this. Do you think I could tell you something that was not true? Now you will be dumb (you will not be able to speak) until all these things have happened, because you did not believe my words!"
And Zacharias was dumb. He could not speak a word to the people in the temple. He could not speak to Elisabeth when he went home. He had to write so that he could tell her what had happened and all that the angel had said.
After nearly a year, the baby boy was born - and all that time, Zacharias could not speak a word. Perhaps he thought that the moment the baby was born, he would be able to speak again? Well, the baby was born but Zacharias still could not speak. I wonder if he thought that God had forgotten about him and that he would be dumb for the rest of his life?
But God had not forgotten him. When the baby was eight days old, all the friends and relatives came to give him his name and they said, "Of course, you will call him Zacharias, after his father." Elisabeth said, "No. He is to be called John!" "Oh no", said all his friends, "you can't call him John. There is no one in your family with that name." So they all turned to Zacharias and said "What is your baby boy to be called?". Zacharias still could not speak so he asked for something to write on and he wrote, "His name is John!".
Why do you think he said that? Because that was what the angel had said and Zacharias knew now that he must do exactly what the angel had told him. What do you think happened? Immediately, he found that he could talk again - why? The angel had said that he would be dumb until all the things he had said had happened - and naming the baby "John" was the last thing to be done. Zacharias began to praise God for all the wonderful things He had done and for all the wonderful things that He would do when the baby had grown into a man. All the people listened in amazement and said, "Whatever kind of boy will this be? He will be someone very great when he grows up!"
That is one of the loveliest of the Christmas stories and it teaches us something very important about prayer. Elisabeth and Zacharias thought that God had not heard their prayers, but He had. Or else they thought that God had said "No" - but He had not. He had said, "Yes - but not yet!"
So - sometimes God does say "No", because what we ask for would not be good for us.
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