Before Luke launches into Christmas, he issues a call to remember. Luke starts with a new story that is really a familiar story. It’s a story about a childless, old couple. Luke called them “righteous.” They were careful to follow all God’s commandments. They were good people, models of piety. But now they are old and childless.
One day God sent his messenger, the angel Gabriel, to Zechariah, and scared the old man half to death. Gabriel’s message: Your prayers have been answered. Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will call him John. Zechariah had understandable doubts. Would his wife really celebrate in the tradition of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Hannah?
Luke is telling a new story while allowing us to savor an old one. He invites his reader to remember God’s kept covenant. Zechariah knew the old stories. Maybe this is why Zechariah didn’t laugh – like his ancestors – at Gabriel’s news. Instead, Zechariah quietly remembered, then watched God fulfill his promise.
Luke reminds us that remembering our story shapes our present, and in turn bolsters our hope for the future. Six months after appearing to Zechariah, Gabriel carried another message to Mary, the mother of Jesus. She believed the message because she knew the old story: nothing is impossible with God.