One of the forgotten stories associated with the birth of Jesus is the birth of John the Baptist, who would play a critical role in paving the way for Jesus’ earthly ministry. Zechariah and Elizabeth were the parents of John the Baptist. The barren Elizabeth and Zechariah had no children. Although Zechariah had prayed that Elizabeth have a child for a number of years, nothing happened. However after years of praying, as Zechariah performed his priestly duties, he received some exciting, yet startling news—Elizabeth was going to bear a son. Zechariah could not believe it. As a result of his disbelief, the angel Gabriel, who had delivered the news silenced him until Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptist. We learn through John the Baptist that no matter how long we have been praying for a miracle to take place in our lives (a birthing where all has been barren), it does not mean that our prayers will not be answered. Often when God does not show up when we want him to, we end up believing it will never happen. We need to be honest with ourselves. We are impatient. We have trouble waiting on the Lord. We want God to act on our timetable, but that is not the theological reality of God’s nature.
God is interested in our prayers, but how and when they will be answered is all a part of God’s ‘master plan of salvation.’ Regardless of what we have prayed for (whether it is something big or small), it connects to divine destiny and purpose. When God answers our prayers to bring life in a barren place, God does not answer them just because of us. He answers them because of his glory. This is why we must wait. Timing is everything. If something happens too soon, we might not be prepared to handle it with care and appreciation. This is why we must wait until we are 16 to get a driver’s permit. We must wait until we are 18 to be able to vote. We must wait until we are 35 to run for president of the United States. These are legal guidelines requiring us to wait. There are also ‘wait times’ in our spiritual lives. While we are waiting, we must still believe that God will show up. The truth is God may not come when we want him, but he is right on time.
God’s time is perfect and perfected if we do not give up. Rather we must choose to keep the faith and believe. One of my favorite holiday movies is The Polar Express. The main character has lost faith in Christmas. On the eve of giving up on Christmas, he and some other children take a miraculous visit to the North Pole where they meet Santa. For his gift from Santa, Santa gave him a bell, which fell through the hole of his pocket when he returned home.
To his surprise, he found the broken bell underneath his Christmas tree. But it did not have a tone inside it. He shook it anyway, and the bell rang. He and his little sister could hear the bell, but his parents could not. The parents could not hear it, because they did not believe. They were going through the motions of Christmas. They had lost the real meaning of Christmas—hope, faith, and miracles! The boy could hear the bell into adulthood, but his sister went through a tragedy, and she could not hear the bell for a season. As we go through this Christmas season, let us hear the bell. God is still answering prayer. God is still giving birth in barren places. Believe.