Carol Wehrheim tells the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth during the first Sunday of Advent. The Time with Children in the worship service at Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton, NJ, focuses on telling Bible stories to the congregation. Storytellers from the church bring these stories to life with dramatic flair.
As you I’m sure know by now, this is the first Sunday of Advent. And during Advent, the stories will be about people who were important in the birth of Jesus.
The story today is about Zechariah and Elizabeth. Zechariah was a priest. He worked in the temple in Jerusalem. His wife, Elizabeth stayed at home in their house in the hill country near Jerusalem when Zachariah came there. And when the story begins, Zechariah was at the temple working, because he and the Priest would take turns, and it was Zechariah’s turn. So he was in a place in the temple where only priests could go; it was called the Holy Place. Zechariah was in there, and he was lighting sweet-smelling incense as a sacrifice to God. On that day, suddenly there was someone else with him. It was an angel.
And the angel said, “Zechariah, I have good news for you. Elizabeth is going to have a baby boy, and you will name him John. And he will be filled with God’s Holy Spirit. And when he grows up, he will get the people of Israel ready for the Messiah that God will send.”
Zechariah almost laughed in his face. “What? Are you kidding me? Elizabeth and I are way too old to be having a baby.”
The angel said, “Listen. I am Gabriel, and God has sent me to give you this good news. But because you don’t believe me, you will not be able to talk until the after baby comes.”
Zechariah finished his work in the Holy Place, and then he went out where all the people were. And the people could tell that something amazing had happened to Zechariah. When he finished his turn at working in the temple, he went home to where Elizabeth was waiting for him, and after a few days, Elizabeth knew that she was going to have a baby. She was very excited about this because they had waited for years and years and years for a baby. But she really kept quiet to herself. When the baby was born all of the neighbors and the family came because they were so excited for Elizabeth and Zechariah who had waited so long for this baby. And then they came back 8 days later when it was time to give the baby a name.
And they are all there, and someone says, "Well, what do you think you are going to name the baby?” thinking they knew what they baby’s name was going to be.
“His name is John.”
“John? You’re not naming your baby after his father Zechariah? And there is no one in your family named John.” They looked at Zechariah, but he still couldn’t speak. So he made motions like he wanted to write something down, so they brought him some things, and he wrote down, “His name is John.” And at that moment, Zechariah could speak again. This story went all over the hill country where they lived, and people heard about this wonderful new baby to Zechariah and Elizabeth named John, and they thought about this strange thing very seriously.
Fold your hands and let’s pray. God of surprises, as we begin this advent season, send your Spirit to this congregation and each family in it so that we may prepare for the birth of Jesus Christ, your Messiah. Amen.
Storyteller: Carol Wehrheim
Carol Wehrheim is a member of Nassau Presbyterian Church, Princeton, NJ, where she is Clerk of Session. She is the author of Getting It Together, Giving Together, and The Baptism of Your Child: A Book for Presbyterian Families as well as the three volumes of Feasting on the Word Children’s Sermons (Bible stories from the lectionary for telling in worship).