A faithful priestly family, Zechariah and Elizabeth, were living faithfully - “righteous before God” (v.6), that is, within the story line that governs Luke’s account. He carefully situates them in this story within the history of the world going around them. God’s work is this world, in this world, and for this world – “in the days of King Herod of Judea” (v.5).
“Righteous” means living in right relation to God and for right relations in the world God created. Far from a stuffy, priggish, rule-keeping fetish, righteousness is the freedom to live for God and from his good order and intentions for his world.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood well that “God’s work is this world, in this world, and for this world”: “What matters is not the beyond but this world, how it is created and preserved, is given laws, reconciled, and renewed. What is beyond this world is meant, in the gospel, to be there for this world” (Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Letters and Papers from Prison (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works) (p. 363). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition).
Elizabeth’s and her predecessors’ receipt of new life from God in spite of their barrenness prefigures Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead.