An aged man was in the middle of a long-sought-after honour. To be in God's holy temple in Jerusalem, presenting the insence to the Lord, laying out the bread, worshipping God Himself on behalf of all the worshippers outside in the massive temple courts.
To be the sole priest to go into the actual sanctum sanctorum was something every priest in Israel wanted to do. So going in was governed by casting lots. It was Zecheriah's turn.
And then things went strange.
Instead of being alone with the unseen presence of God in that holy place - a rude shock. An angelic being there beside the inscence altar - and he is addressing Zechariah: "do not be afraid, your prayers are heard, your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will call him John." The angel goes on to say marvellous things about the boy to come: that he will "be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth" and that he will "to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
What a prophecy to get about a coming son! The only problem was for Zachariah, it sounded too good to be true. Especially as he and his wife were childless and into their old age.
The old man was afraid. And the answer was a stumbling one. "How can this be? My wife and I are old..."
Well, this passage resonated with Sheba and myself. Ever since we married 15 years ago, we have talked and prayed about adoption, but I had a lot of fear. And fear meant putting things off. Last year God helped me overcome that fear. And so suddenly last week, our prayers for a home for little Valmik reached a tipping point. We had been praying that someone else would adopt him - and we gradually began to realise that Jesus was telling us that we were the answers to our prayers. We realised that God was showing us in multiple ways that we were to take him home. We shifted from praying 'God show us if you want us to adopt Valmik' to 'God show us if for some reason you do not want us to... and do so very clearly!'
And so we are suddenly parents again! How strange and unexpected. With deep butterflies about the next steps - and also wonderful rays of joy.
We wanted an Indian version for this and quickly settled on "Yohan." Yohan is Syriac for John and means 'God is merciful.' And indeed He is. We are recieving wave after wave of mercy and grace these days.
So it was with great joy that on the 25th of January we first used Yohan. And Yohan first started calling us Mummy and Daddy. What sheer joy to hear our son address us as parents. To come home to another set of hugs and have another little one to tuck into bed and pray for at night... How much our heavenly Father too must rejoice when our faltering lips first call Him 'Daddy' too.
We asked them to extend their stay with us after Asha's birthday because we thought I would be visiting Rwanda during this time period. Little did we know that we were actually setting the ground for them to be with us as Yohan became part of the family.
Their love and prayers and encouragement have been such a blessing and help for us in these days of grace. We are deeply touched by the affirmative words and prayers from Amma and Appa from far away outside Vishakapatnam. We are eagerly waiting for Yohan to meet them too!
So we are now in a new world.
A world where we are exploring with a new family member. Introducing our dear ones to Yohan - and having Yohan experience an ever widening set of relationships. And also for us to take the intial steps of experiencing who Yohan is and who he is becoming!
One of the scriptures which spoke to us was 'children are gift (some versions say 'reward') from the Lord (Psalm 127). What a gift we are experiencing.
Yohan was prayed for at church. And has been covered with prayer in so many ways. We know that we do not have the capacity, energy or wisdom to care for another child - but God does. And He has graciously encouraged us to take this step which we are still rubbing our eyes about... did we really do this?
We earnestly need more prayers as we work through the next steps.
Getting the paper work done. We are in uncharted territory here.
Understanding Yohan's learning needs. He is 11 but has hardly seen the inside of a school.
Seeing healing and wholeness take root in our son.
Building a common language - we have suddenly become a bi-lingual household, with even Enoch switching to Hindi when he speaks with Yohan.
Rescheduling our time - especially in these early months - so that we are able to spend as much time with our 'new' child - and also keep moulding Asha and Enoch too.
All a tall order - but as before - nothing is too difficult for the Lord! We feel like the man who said to Jesus: "Lord I believe, help my unbelief!"
Tonight at our Bible study at Shanti Francis' home, we asked people to share their prayer needs. Yohan was one of the first to speak - and he said that he is thankful to Jesus that he was sick but is now better.
There were a number of moist eyes in that small room when Yohan said that - especially those belonging to the two new parents.
We have been overwhelmed by the love that people have poured out to us - a cascade of greetings from all corners of the globe thanks to facebook - calls from loved ones and hearty hugs by so many of our local friends.
We know that Yohan has been brought into our little family for a purpose and are excited about the steps ahead.
Some of them have already begun!
Asha is showing herself to be an indefatigueable teacher - and has pounced on her at times a shade reluctant but nearly always smiling (so far at least) student.
Here she drills Yohan through the 3 times table...
Today we found Yohan in a box - looking through Calvin and Hobbes! Perhaps he was trying transmogrification?
But most of all, we are all learning the new contours of our family. We are on a new track of our life-long journey. One which if you had told us about in November 2014 we would have patted you on the back and encouraged you to take up writing science fiction. But which has moved very rapidly from an outside chance fantasy to real life 'fact'ion.
For unto us a son is born, unto us a son is given...