Luke 1:5-7 (NIV) In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.
God chose this moment in time to act, because all of the necessary preparations had finally been completed. A large swath of Europe and the Middle East had a single trade language, Greek, and the Romans had built and were continuing to build roads and other infrastructure all of which would enable the messengers of the gospel to get the message out to millions of people quickly and easily. The time had now fully come (Galatians 4:4), so He began to put His plans into motion.
The first item was the promised forerunner, who would go forth in the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare the hearts of the people for the Messiah, who would follow in his wake (Malachi 4:5-6). To bring this person into existence, God chose a unique couple who were both completely devoted to Him, and who lived their lives uprightly and blamelessly before Him: Zechariah and Elizabeth. Like many couples God chose to have special children, they were childless, and were beyond the normal child-bearing age, so that there would be no question that the child they would have was a special gift from Him.
Both Zechariah and Elizabeth were descendants of Aaron, making Zechariah a priest who served in the temple, an intermediary between God and His people. John, their son, would also be born a priest by birthright, but his intermediation would be different than that of his father and his ancestors. Whereas Zechariah brought people near to God by presenting their sacrifices on the altar, John would bring people near to God by leading them to repentance. Whereas Zechariah presented the blood of the spotless sacrifices so that the sins of the people would be forgiven, John led people to turn away from their sinful attitudes and behaviors and to turn back to God so that they would be in a position to receive the Messiah when He came.
All of that was more than thirty years in the future at this point. But everything had finally been lined up, the key players had been chosen, and the ball was finally beginning to roll.
Father, it is easy to forget that You were moving behind the scenes all through history to bring things to that point where Jesus could come into the world and begin the process of establishing the new covenant. Even the choice of parents for both John and Jesus was not left to chance. It was all too important. The salvation of all of the people of the world, including me, hung in the balance, and you cared enough to get it all exactly right. Thank You! Amen.