In the United States, almost 40 million adults are age 65 or older. Currently, the average lifespan for men is over age 82; for women it is age 85. Health and wellness statistics tell us that adults in the United States can expect to age better than ever before.
Today, we will look at an older man who was indeed aging well and who played a key role in setting the stage for the Nativity. In Luke 1:5, we meet Zechariah, who was born in the time of Herod. Herod the Great ruled from 40 to 4 b.c. (While Herod is mentioned here, his role in the Nativity is more significant later in the story.)
We also learn that Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, were “righteous in the sight of God” (v. 6). This alone is a high compliment, and the verse goes on to say that they were blameless in their spiritual walk. But despite their faithfulness to God, Zechariah and Elizabeth were barren: they had been unable to have children and were “very old” (v. 7) Note that at the beginning of the Nativity story, before telling of the miraculous birth of our Savior, we meet a couple physically unable to bear children. They needed a miracle.
At this time of year, one priest would be chosen to enter the temple and offer incense (v. 8). According to Bible scholars, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for any priest. Zechariah was deeply honored. We are told that people gathered outside to pray during the offering (v. 10). Imagine Zechariah’s surprise when an angel of the Lord appeared to him, just to the right of the altar! What he did not know was that the angel would deliver news that would change his life forever.