Thursday, Dec. 22:
AM Psalm 80; PM Psalm 146, 147; 2 Samuel 7:18-29;
Gal. 3:1-14; Luke 1:57-66
And they had no child, because that Elizabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. Luke 1:7
And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. Luke 1:21
“Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked upon me.” Luke 1:25
In the beginning, there is no baby. In the beginning, there is much of what there is now. There is waiting and there is forgetting to wait.
And there are bodies.
There is an old woman, a Jew among pagans and a rheumatic, binding up her hair so she can soak her body in the tub.
Meanwhile, her old husband, a good priest with bad knees, gets struck dumb by an angel. He is righteous. Why this harsh treatment? God disciplines those he loves. But for what? For eyes that had ceased to see, though his hands had not ceased to do God’s work? Was it for not being glad at glad tidings? Or was it for disdaining his old body, and his own wife’s.
Elizabeth would have known exactly why. He talks too much, too prone to ruin a moment with a good point. He would soon find a new voice in listening, though.
But good thing Elizabeth was not there at the time. Then she would have seen the look he would have given her. Those? His eyes would have said to her hips. Ours? And then the finger in the crack of the dam—and Zachariah’s look, and the angel’s frank gaze—and all that river of grief held back might as well have been fire instead. She would be twenty again, all at once, with all that hope again, all at once, and the hope might well near have killed her.
So God makes sure he finds Zechariah in the temple, alone.
Now it is the beginning, and there is both the silence of the one who says too much and the words of the one who, until now, has said too little. “Thus hath the Lord dealt with me!” she shyly sings. At the end of one week she has an old husband’s new kisses, and is soon lotioning her skin that has begun to glow. In an old house, Yahweh is flapping his wings. But it is a hint, and there is much still to pray for.
It is not this baby that is the beginning and the end of all their waiting. It is outside of them, far outside, and yet it is in them, too, they can’t deny it, what God has done to their bodies, and will yet do, and in this impossible thing, they have just begun to taste it.
This is the beginning, and it whispers its unexpected end: Look.
(Today’s exercise: At different points throughout this day, pause and thank God for your body. Thank God for whatever health he has given your body. Offer up to God the parts of your body that are broken or wearied. Offer them up, in hope, as a “living sacrifice.”)