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When I married Elizabeth long ago in the days of my youth, I hoped for children, especially for sons to follow me as a priest. The years passed. I carried out my priestly duties taking my turn in the Temple in Jerusalem. I lost count of the times I prayed for a son and heir.
Eventually I gave up praying. It seemed useless. Elizabeth was making the best of her life without children in a society where married women without offspring were looked down on, pitied or even made fun of.
The day I was struck dumb began like any other. Lots were cast to see which priest would enter the innermost part of the Temple to burn incense. I was chosen. There was nothing to suggest that this would not be a duty like others I had performed many times over the years. Sometimes I felt that God was present in his Temple. Other times, although I knew that this was His house, He seemed more distant. After the time in the innermost part of the Temple, I would return to the other priests and the people, who were praying in the outer part of the Temple and the courts.
On this day, which I will never forget, I was concentrating on carrying out the rituals according to the instructions laid down by our forefather Aaron. Suddenly there was a bright light and I looked up to see a figure standing to the right of the altar of the Lord. I was surprised and not a little fearful. The angel told me that my prayer had been heard and God would grant me my request for a son. He went on to tell me how this son’s birth would be rejoiced over and what kind of life he was to lead.
I couldn’t believe my ears.
No wonder I said the first thing that came into my head: “How can I know this is true?”
The figure told me he was the angel Gabriel. He told me off for not believing what he had told me. He said I wouldn’t speak until my son John had been born. I doubted that too, but when I left the dark enclosed part of the temple and reached the lighter outer parts, I soon discovered to my dismay that he had not been joking.
All the priests and people were clamouring to know what had taken me so long – and I couldn’t tell them.
The following months were the longest in my whole life. Elizabeth did conceive for the first time ever, even though she was past child-bearing age. Her very young cousin Mary came to stay. She too was expecting a son, whose arrival had been foretold by the angel Gabriel. It was a rum do!
My speech was restored to me shortly after John’s birth. When they asked me his name, I sent for a wax tablet and stylus. “His name is John.” They argued with Elizabeth and me, because this was not the name that would have been chosen from our traditions. Suddenly I discovered my speech had been restored. I lost no time in praising God.
The story of the birth of John the Baptist may be found in Luke 1: 5-80
This year for the A to Z Challenge I have taken my 2013 Challenge as a starting point for most of the posts. I have written a post based around something or usually someone from the Bible. Sometimes it is a fictional story, for example when I have added some back stories (as a writing exercise). Sometimes it is a summary.
I hope my readers will be challenged to consider the original texts in more depth. (If only to discover what liberties I have taken with them!)