The winners of the Christmas alphabet game called out their words for each letter.
“E is for Elizabeth.”
“Elizabeth! What does that have to do with Christmas?” Steve sputtered.
“She was the wife of Zechariah. Gabriel the angel told him he would be the father of John. That promise came before Gabriel visited Mary,” I said.
Steve looked at me dumbfounded. “How do you know all that?
“Because I tell the Christmas story to kids every year. Read it. It’s in Luke 1.”
A couple days later, I saw Steve and asked, “Did you read Luke 1?”
He hadn’t. So, just for Steve, I am writing a short version of the role Elizabeth, Zechariah and John play in the full Christmas story.
The story begins as Zechariah offers up sacrifices in the temple. The angel Gabriel suddenly appears, startling him. Gabriel says, “Don’t be afraid. Your prayers are going to be answered. You will have a son. Call him John.”
Zechariah scoffs, “Me? Have a son? I am old. And Elizabeth is way too old to have a baby.”
Gabriel put Zechariah in his place, “I stand before God. Because you do not believe, you won’t be able to speak until he is born.” Well, that shut up old Zechariah for a long nine months.
He went home. Elizabeth became pregnant.
Six months later, in Nazareth, Gabriel appears to Mary, “Don’t be afraid! I come with good news. You are going to be the mother of the promised, eternal King.”
Mary, she believes him, but she wonders, “How can that be? I am a virgin.”
Gabriel tells her that God will make it happen and then to prove it, he says, “your cousin Elizabeth, the one who is old and never had a baby? After all these years, she is having a son. See, with God nothing is impossible.”
Gabriel did not say, “Go check her out! See for yourself!” But Mary did.
As soon as Mary walks into the house, the baby inside Elizabeth jumps with joy. Unborn baby John recognizes that Jesus has entered the room.
Elizabeth excitedly says, “You are so blessed. You are the one! And my baby knows it, too.”
John’s job was to announce, “God With Us has arrived!” He began doing that even before his birth.
Mary spends a couple months visiting Elizabeth - two mothers who are miraculously expecting special sons. Mary goes home. Elizabeth has her son.
A week later, the neighbors all come over for a circumcision ceremony and the naming of the baby.
The neighbors all insist, “of course, his name will be Zechariah.”
“No, no, no,” Elizabeth says over and over, “His name is John.”
“No one in the family has that name,” they argue.
She insists. Exasperated they turned to old Zechariah who could not speak his opinion. He motions for a writing tablet. They grab one. Zechariah writes, “His name is John.” Suddenly he can talk, and he can not stop praising God. He lets everyone know it all was exactly as the angel Gabriel had said. As promised, the baby boy was born to old folks. That’s the last we hear of Zechariah or Elizabeth.
The next chapter begins with Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem. They stay in the stable because there is no room at the inn. The Shepherds hear about his birth from angels. Thirty years pass. And John, now called John the Baptist, announces, “One is coming; I am not even worthy of bending down and tying up His sandals.”
In John chapter one, John first appears as “the man sent by God whose name was John.” Later he baptizes Jesus. So yes, Steve, all three, Elizabeth, Zechariah and John, definitely belong in the story of the Christ of Christmas.
Joan Hershberger is a former staff writer for the El Dorado News-Times and author of “Twenty Gallons of Milk and other columns from the El Dorado News-Times.”