Prayer of the Day
O God, who alone knits all infants in the womb, You chose improbable servants—old and childless—to conceive and parent the forerunner of Christ and, in so doing, demonstrated again Your strength in weakness. Grant us, who are as unlikely and unworthy as Zechariah and Elizabeth, the opportunity to love and serve You according to Your good and gracious will; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.
About Zechariah and Elizabeth: Zechariah and Elizabeth were “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). Zechariah, a priest in the Jerusalem temple, was greeted by the angel Gabriel, who announced that Zechariah and Elizabeth would become parents of a son. Initially, Zechariah did not believe Gabriel’s announcement because of their old age. For his disbelief, Zechariah became unable to speak. After their son was born,Elizabeth named their son John. Zechariah conformed his wife’s choice, and his ability to speak was restored. In response, he sang the Benedictus, a magnificent summary of God’s promises in the Old Testament and prediction of John’s work as forerunner to Jesus (Luke 1: 68-79). Zechariah and Elizabeth are remembered as examples of faithfulness and piety. (Modified from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)
Reflection: Today’s Commemoration of Zechariah and Elizabeth is on the United States’ Labor Day. Elizabeth in her old age gave birth to John: she surely did labor! We know Zechariah served as , “a priest before God”(St. Luke 1: 8) but I do not think that was a paying job. He probably had another job or vocation. We know for instance that Joseph was a carpenter but his occupation is not essential to the Biblical narrative. We know these saints by something far more important than their employment.
When we meet someone, one of the usual first question is: “So, what do you do for a living?” As important as jobs, labor and vocations are, they are finally supportive of our real labors: maintaining marriage, family, house and home. “What do you do for a living?” I am a Father, a husband. This is my life before God. This is my priestly duty, my lot. So if I were, say, an accountant, that would be a supporting vocation to my living. Critics have noted that in the old TV show, “Leave It to Beaver”, we never find out what Ward, the father of the Cleaver family, does for a job. It seems the critics take umbrage with that but it tells us that is not crucial. The sitcom was about a family, even more the Bible! And Zechariah and Elizabeth are remembered for their faith and service before God, as people of faith, a father and a mother, not their net worth.
Zechariah’s Song, the Benedictus (The first word in the psalm in Latin, “Blessed”) is prayed every day in Matins and Morning Prayer. It is included below. As John paved the way for the coming of Jesus the Christ, so by the Lord’s promise fulfilled to Zechariah, we each and every day in prayer, in the Benedictus, prepare our selves for the work of the Messiah in our vocations. Zechariah prophesied. Matins is good way to begin the work day, every day we labor.
St. Luke 1
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for He has visited and redeemed His people
69and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of His servant David,
70 as He spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71 that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember His holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
78because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
79to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (St. Luke 1)