As if one Baby wasn't enough for Christmas, today's liturgy presents us with two more. According to one of the Bible's favorite story lines, these are babies who, under the usual circumstances, should never have been born. In both cases, "the woman" (in the first story, the poor lady never even gets a name) is called "barren." (Given the rudimentary understanding of biology in those days, it was assumed that any failure to conceive had to be on the woman's side.) In the Gospel, as if to up the ante, the couple is said to be "advanced in years."
Then comes the Angel of the Lord, announcing new life: "It's a boy!"
Both babies, Samson and John, are themselves "announcements" that God is beginning a surprising new intervention for his people's rescue.
The One whose coming we are preparing to celebrate (in anticipation of his definitive coming) told us, "Unless you accept the Kingdom of God like a little child, you will not enter into it." God likes to start small.
Zechariah, whose angelic visitation couldn't possibly have been more dramatic (in the Temple of Jerusalem, at the Hour of Incense, with the crowd of people praying outside) held back his belief. He couldn't say a "be it done" (doesn't that make him the truly "barren" one in today's liturgy?). But even Zechariah would eventually see, and then like the women, proclaim the great deeds of God.