The curtain fluttered closed behind him. Darkness mostly surrounded the altar. The lampstand quietly glowed on his right. He heard the murmured prayers of hundreds, expectantly gathered just outside. He had looked forward to this moment for every one of his seventy-five years with no guarantee that it would happen.
He lit the incense. Smoke began to curl upwards.
Fear knifed through him, completely displacing his chanted petitions. Something unapproachably bright was visible above the altar. A presence.
“Don’t be afraid!”
The voice was deep, calm, believable.
“Your prayers have been heard. Your wife will have a son.”
Confusion danced around the edge of his fear. They had stopped praying for a child when Elizabeth turned sixty, more than ten years ago.
“He will go before Him in the Spirit and power of Elijah. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children.”
The rest of the words became a blur. This was a Messianic prophecy!
“But I am an old man.”
His words tumbled out almost before he thought about it. My wife is old. This isn’t possible.
He didn’t believe.
Gabriel’s words to Zechariah broke centuries of heavenly silence. A prophecy from Malachi was quoted, naming this promised son a forerunner of the Christ.
In this second week of Advent, note the source of doubt – our identity. When Zechariah analyzed himself and his capabilities, he doubted God’s promise. When you and I focus on our limitations, our deficiency of energy, desire, time, compassion – we doubt.
One of the first steps to faith is to turn our gaze and our hearts away from ourselves, and toward out God who CAN do the impossible!