The following is an imaginative fictional account of Zechariah’s experience in the temple (Luke 1:5-20). I suggest reading the passage of scripture first, and then my fictional account.
I hurried through the Nicanor Gate and into the Court of the Priests, the sun low in the sky. The smell of smoke, blood, and animal dung drifted on the breeze. I shimmied out of my traveling clothes and immersed in the cool water of the bronze laver. I washed off the hill-country dust, still clinging from the day’s journey, and I thought of Elizabeth. With her tender hip, she couldn’t manage the animals anymore, and the boy from next door knew little about goats; they always looked too scruffy, too dirty when I returned home. If only we’d had a son.
I donned fresh white linens and drew my lot: incense. When the animal offerings were complete, I entered the sanctuary with an empty pail, a whisk broom, and a pouch of the sweet, earthy, resins—frankincense, balsam, and black amber. I paused, captivated by the towering, silvery outlines of two cherubim woven into the veil that separated me from the holiest place. I swept the ashes from the golden altar into the pail and sprinkled fresh incense on the radiant coals. Ribbons of aromatic smoke curled into the air, and I prayed: “Lord God, purify and redeem your people.” Suddenly, to my right, a dark glittering figure twice the height of a man appeared, like a cherub liberated from the stitches of the veil. Its wings spanned the room, and its inky body shimmered like the night sky. My pail clattered to the ground, and I prostrated myself on the floor, heart battering my ribcage. I struggled to understand his words through the fog of terror: “The Lord has heard…joy…good news…Elizabeth…John…a son.”
My tears pooled on the floor. “How can this be?” I said. The angel spoke again, departed, and then silence. I exited the sanctuary and stood at the top of the stairs, poised to speak the blessing over the Levites below, but I could only think it: The Lord has blessed us, and kept us; God’s face shines upon us; The Lord is gracious to us and has given us peace.