Really Old Parents
There was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth… they had no children, because they were infertile and getting on in years. – Luke 1:5–7 (NRSV, adapted)
The angel Gabriel appeared while old Zechariah served in the temple, comically scaring him half to death. “Oh my God! Fancy meeting you here… in church!”
Gabriel announced that Zechariah and Elizabeth would have a son. Did Zechariah dutifully respond like Mary: “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be unto me as you have said”? Hardly. Zechariah said, “You sure about that? Have you noticed how incredibly old we are?” Gabriel was not amused. He struck Zechariah mute until eight days after their son, John, was born.
I think Gabriel went too far. What does an angel know about giving birth or about keeping up with a rambunctious, authority-flouting, unconventional kid like John when you are incredibly old?
Even under the best circumstances, parenting is hard, humbling, mystifying, and often thankless work. Nothing will age you faster even if you started young. When you finally turn the kid loose, you hope to be around long enough to enjoy grandchildren.
As far as we know, John didn’t have children in the usual sense. His offspring were those he dunked in the Jordan—including his cousin, Jesus, who heard a heavenly voice say, “This is my son, the beloved.”
You might not be a parent, but you are somebody’s child. What’s more, you are a child of God who is the oldest parent of all. That means we are all kin. If we embraced just that much this Christmas, the world would be forever changed.
Our Father, Mother, Creator who is in heaven, holy is your name…