It was a quiet Sunday lunch. No one was talking much; we were lost in our own thoughts.
“His name is John,” she said. I looked up. Elizabeth went on. “Before Zechariah wrote on that tablet, I said it. But no one wanted to take the mother’s word.” She paused. “I’m not surprised. A godly woman without children wasn’t a reputable source for wisdom.”
It was still a quiet Sunday lunch, but no one was anywhere else. We waited.
“When Zechariah came home from Jerusalem, he looked different, hopeful instead of the usual fatigue. And then he couldn’t talk. Not a word.
“I didn’t notice at first. I had food ready. I had much to tell him.
“We never fit into the village, exactly. As Aaron’s descendants, we were taught to be faithful, but that made us a little odd. Zechariah and I needed each other. When he was gone, I missed him.
“Finally I stopped talking. Zechariah sat silent. I could tell he was thinking. Instead of saying anything, with his finger, he traced letters on the table: Gabriel said, ‘his name is John.’
“It made no sense. Then Zechariah put his hand on my belly. And started to laugh, silently. And finally I did, too, the laughter of relief when the impossible has a glimmer of hope.
“Nine months later, house full of family and friends, I said, ‘his name is John.’ It made as little sense as a pregnant old lady. Zechariah wrote it again, this time on a tablet. And he could explain.
“Every meal, as long as we were together, we reminded each other of that first meal we ate with hope.”
Elizabeth stopped. We wanted to ask her all the parts of the story no one knows. But Zechariah’s silence covers it. Her eyes gleamed in the candle. Tears of joy and gladness. And hope.