CHILDLESSNESS AT CHRISTMAS by Christopher Ash for Core Christianity
They are four of the saddest words in Luke’s Christmas story: “But they were childless.”
Luke writes them, of course, of Zechariah and Elizabeth:
In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. (Luke 1:5-7)
It’s worth quietly pausing at these sad words. For some, to do so will cause terrible personal pain. And all of us, perhaps, will feel keenly the sorrow of those whom we love and who are childless: those who have never married, but who would love to have married; others who are married, but for whom the birth of a child has never been given by God. Childless.
It is, as one childless couple has said, “that strange grief which has no focus for its tears and no object for its love.” There is no anniversary of childlessness on which friends might send a card of condolence, no grave to visit and remember, no photograph or name or memory of the child who never came. It is just an emptiness, a not-ness, a joy that didn’t come, a hope forever dashed.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were married. They hoped and prayed for a child, for they valued highly such a wonderful gift of God. But the child never came. The months went by, but there was no conception. Gradually the biological clock ticked on to the years when it seemed unlikely to happen, and finally into that stage of life when it was most definitely not going to happen. Many tears, much quiet grieving. And no hope. Childless.
Yet however painful it might be to consider these words, it is important to do so. For it will deepen our grasp of the nature and the wonder of the gospel of the Lord Jesus. And that depth of wonder will more than compensate for the tears we may shed.
From “Dis-Grace” to Grace
Childlessness is a poignant motif in the story of the Bible. Abraham and Sarah are childless—until Isaac is given; Isaac and Rebecca are childless—until Esau and Jacob are born; Jacob and Rachel are childless—until Joseph is given; and there were others. And now Zechariah and Elizabeth, this godly priest and his pious wife, are added to the list.