Luke begins his thorough recording of Christ's birth by writing of Zechariah the Priest. Remind yourself as you read this story that the land of Israel had not received angelic visitations or the voice of God speaking through prophets for 400 years. Something very important is happening as Angels begin to appear with messages and prophetic words are uttered, firstly by the angels and then by humans. We will look at Zechariah's prophecy in a couple of days as it is recorded towards the end of this opening chapter.
It was a great privilege for Zechariah to be burning incense in the Temple before the Lord. It must have been a holy time, the great crowd praying outside and he, within the walls, in the silence, burning incense, the symbol of Israel's prayers. Even in that ethereal atmosphere he cannot grasp the truth of what the angel tells him. We may well feel sympathetic to Zechariah and his struggle to believe what the angel had told him would happen, but I think that when we consider the splendour and awesomeness of Gabriel and this it seems would have been a 'full of light' event, rather than other occasions mentioned in the Old Testament and experienced by many people today of a disguised angelic appearance. That would have been the other reason why Zechariah should have taken Gabriel's word instantly: the OT is full of angelic appearances and he would have known that well.
The will of God still continued to happen, only Zechariah was struck dumb for the period of his wife, Elizabeth's pregnancy. She exhibits a much greater sense of faith and gratitude; God did not need to send an angel for her to understand that something special was afoot!
John the Baptist it is who is to be born and Jesus Himself credits him as being the greatest human born of a woman (Luke 7 v 28)! He was to be a Nazarene and he would have the almost unique experience of being constantly filled with the Holy Spirit from birth! Although Mary, the mother of Jesus and Elizabeth were related (v36) we know nothing about John the Baptist between his birth and the beginning of his ministry just before Jesus began to preach and heal, ending soon after by the sad truncation of his life through the orders of King Herod.