I am an old woman stooped over like a fishing hook — and my husband is no spring chicken. Too many years without children have deadened our spirits and taken away our hope. I don’t know why God was punishing me, or even what I’d done wrong. To others in Judea, I was just the barren one, soon to crumble and blow away like an old barley husk.

The house was dark, lit by a single oil lamp the night Zechariah stumbled in — drained, agitated, speechless, pointing to my stomach and crying. Were they tears of joy or of sorrow? I couldn’t tell.

What terrible grief had happened at the temple? He had spent the week there in Jerusalem, praying on behalf of our people, for we are Levites. My father was a priest; Zechariah is a priest. For centuries, Levite men have been the ones who speak on behalf of all in the presence of God. And this was to be the day — the once-in-a-lifetime day — when he would take his place at the high altar, offering sacred incense and age-old prayers.

But just hours before, surrounded by the sweet smell and sight of wafting incense, out of the fog, to the right of the altar, rose up a majestic angel, Gabriel, towering over him. I shouldn’t say majestic. Terrifying would be more like it — and wondrously proclaiming that I would bear a son.

A son? Our heart’s desire? A son? The words take hold of my heart as if…

And that is not all, said the angel. Your son will be the one who will prepare God’s people for the coming of the Lord.

No. No, said Zechariah, Elizabeth is just too old. She’s getting on in years. At which Gabriel cut off Zechariah’s voice. You have not believed, he said. You do not deserve to speak. Struck dumb.

I wait now in both fear and hope. Who am I to give birth to this son with a great destiny? And yet who am I to refuse? Thank you, thank you Lord… I am here….