Meanwhile back at the ranch… Zechariah is in the Temple offering the incense prayers but Elizabeth and the people are praying outside, waiting. “Meanwhile back at the ranch” is a cliché that comes from silent films that helped in a seque between scenes. At first it literally referred to a ranch but came to be more loosely used to indicate a shift in scenes. The Urban dictionary sights it as being used when someone interjects a comment that seems off the point. Luke mentions the people waiting outside who are praying. They are part of the scenario but may seem incidental. We are part of what happens even when unnoted.
So often our spiritual surprises feel like something we “own” as our experience, our testimony, but Luke here points out that there were ramifications of Zechariah’s experience like a pebble thrown into a pond. Watch the ripples flow outward. Zechariah is old and childless but faithfully serving in spite of the fact that God has not answered his prayer for a child, his important prayer. Angel Gabriel’s visit with Zechariah was a pebble in the pond that impacted lives. Zechariah doubted and would be silent for nine months because of his doubt. Elizabeth would miraculously become pregnant. And the community observed all this realizing that Zechariah had seen a vision. Events happen in community.
In our world today of instant communication – phones, telegrams, email, texting etc etc it is seems odd that Elizabeth would seclude herself until she was obviously showing as truly pregnant. Perhaps she is responding to the mocking she had received. Perhaps she wants to make sure she is not going to loose the baby. Perhaps she does not want the gossip that might come from all the questions about her pregnancy. For many of us, those deeply spiritual truths that impact our lives, are personal and private. Elizabeth secludes herself for five months realizing, “The Lord has done this for me.” Some people are outspoken about their faith like Peter but some people are quiet and private like Elizabeth. Hers is not doubt. Hers is not lack of joy. She chooses to wait to share her news until the time is right.
So with whom do you identify today as you approach Christmas? Are you just observing like the crowd outside? Are you silent because you have no voice to express how God works in your life? Or perhaps, like Elizabeth you are waiting for just that right moment to share how you have been blessed. These people are not the shepherds, the innkeeper, the wisemen, Mary or Joseph but Luke knows that they are part of the story and their presence and their story needs to be celebrated this Christmas. Community testifies to reality. You are important. I pray you find voice to share your faith experience with someone this Christmas. Maybe talking is not your medium and you would prefer to write a poem, sing a song or paint a picture but you are part of God’s story! That’s important. Thank you, Lord for including even me.