Zechariah was a priest serving in the temple in Jerusalem, but Jerusalem is ruled by the Roman government and its army. And the army had been there a long time.
Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth had lived a righteous and blameless life, but not one like they would have chosen for they had no children. They had been waiting for a long time. Then the Lord sent a messenger, Gabriel, to Zechariah to tell him that Elizabeth was going to have child.
Zechariah disputed the possibility of getting something that he had longed for so long. Gabriel responded, "Because you didn't believe these words, you are not going to be able to speak until the things I have promised you occur."
Eight days after the birth of his son, when neighbors and friends had gathered for the circumcision, he was able to speak.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, he prophesied that a savior was to come and that a messenger had been sent to announce that news.
He expressed gratitude to the Lord that the promises made to Israel were going to be realized, promises of rescue from enemies. Zechariah then reminded them what forgiven, rescued people were supposed to do with their freedom: serve God in every way on every day.
Try making Zechariah's Benedictus part of your morning prayer each day:
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for you have looked favorably on your people and redeemed us.
You have raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of your servant David.
You have spoken through prophets that we would be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us.
You have shown mercy to our ancestors and remembered your holy covenant,
the oath you swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us rescue from our enemies
so that we might serve you without fear
in holiness and righteousness all our days.
Zechariah then speaks to the child, "You will be the prophet. You will prepare the way."
Think about way of preparation. I mean how highways are actually built. Consider how existing barriers must be destroyed--buildings, ones that should have been torn down anyway and ones that were in excellent shape, even beautiful, much-loved homes. Hillsides have to be cut through or mounted. Trees and brush are dragged away. All this before any actual road building is done.