John the Baptist is one of the key figures in the birth narratives of Jesus. Luke 1:5-25 tells us how the birth of John was foretold. We are introduced to his parents, both righteous Levites, and we read of their ‘thorn in the flesh’, childlessness. Even today, childlessness causes heartache and sorrow to many people. Millions of pounds today are spent on fertility treatments and although science has made great advances in helping people who are infertile, the difficulties faced by Zechariah and Elizabeth are readily understood by many in modern times. Wes King, a Christian songwriter, wrote about the difficulties he and his wife faced when for three years they were trying to have children and could not. He said that this period of disappointment was like ‘constantly walking on broken glass’ and ‘even when the glass is gone, the cuts are still there.’ He wrote a song about this in which he says:

“We thought you’d be here by now,
Your mother and I.
We’re praying through our tears that somehow
We might hear your sweet cry.
Have we waited too long?
It’s getting harder to be strong.
Is there something we’ve done wrong?” (‘Thought You’d Be Here’, Wes King)

‘Thought You’d Be Here’, Wes King

For us, the issue that is like ‘constantly walking on broken glass’ may not be childlessness, but we all experience heartache and disappointments in life. We can identify with the disappointment felt by Zechariah and Elizabeth.

The Christmas story constantly reminds us, however, that God steps into our situations and is our Deliverer and Redeemer. Their situation was changed by the angelic announcement of the birth of John (see Luke 1). This was a clear reminder that God hears and answers prayer (and is an encouragement to us to persevere in prayer) and a prophetic word about the purpose and destiny of this miracle baby.

Just because John was a miracle baby with a purpose and destiny proclaimed by an angel doesn’t mean we all have purpose and destiny, does it? Our roles in life may be major or minor, but the Bible teaches that every single person does have a destiny and a purpose: that every single person matters to God, even if not to their own parents; that there is value and worth in human life precisely because man is made ‘in the image of God’ (Gen 1:27). Abortion, euthanasia and eugenics all work from the belief that there is nothing inherently sacred about human life, but if we are knit together by God in our mother’s womb (Ps 139:13), if we can be chosen and set apart by God even before we are born (see Jer 1:3, Luke 1:15), then clearly there is more to life than the visible, scientific evidence so many rely on. John reminds us that life is sacred and precious and purposeful.

Our roles may not be as major as John’s was. We may never have the global impact that some people have. Our lives may never go down in the history books. We may never have an angelic message like this one given to us. But Jesus hung on the cross to save our souls because He deemed us important enough; He came into the world to save sinners and the whole message of Christmas is that people matter enough to God for Him to go to radical lengths to restore that broken relationship with Him.

If we take nothing else from the story of John’s miraculous birth, let’s remember that every birth is miraculous, every life is miraculous, because life itself comes from God and there is nothing more miraculous than the new birth which comes when we receive Christ as our Lord and Saviour. Christmas is not just about the birth of Christ; it offers us the hope that all of us can be born again: “to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13)