Devotion – December 2 – “Our Motto for Advent and Christmas”
Good morning all,
We have entered the season of Advent. Advent is the time of the year that we prepare ourselves once again for the coming of Christ and reflect on the importance of the first Christmas. For our devotions this month, we will journey together through the first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke, as he describes for us the amazing events surrounding the Christ-child’s entrance into the world. May Luke’s glorious words prepare our hearts, minds and souls to savor this holy season. God bless, Dan
P.S. The devotions will seem a lot longer because I have included the Bible passage for the day.
5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years. 8 Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10 Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16 He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18
Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” 19 The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”
21 Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
24 After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25 “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”
At the start of the great story of Jesus’ coming into the world, we are introduced to two people: Zechariah and Elizabeth. Who were they? Just ordinary people like you and me. There was nothing “special” about them in the sense that they were kings or queens. But in verse seven we are introduced to a pain in their life – they have no children. Though they had always hoped to be parents, the time had now passed for that hope to be realized … or was it? …
By “chance” (like this story shows, I have stopped thinking a lot of things in my life as happenings by “chance” – how about you?) Pastor Zechariah was chosen to go in and make the incense offering within the holy of holies. Now Zechariah certainly understood that within the holy of holies God presence resided, but he certainly didn’t expect to encounter a living representative of God – an angel! Zechariah is terrified! – How would you feel if you encountered an angel?
Overwhelmed by the meeting, the angel tells Zechariah to calm down (easy for him to say!). The angel tells Zechariah that he has come to bring him and Elizabeth goods news: their prayers have been heard and it will be fulfilled -- they will become parents!
Zechariah instead of breaking into celebration, doubts the message. In Eugene Peterson’s translation of this Scripture “The Message” translates Zechariah’s words in verse 18 this way: “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.” – Isn’t it interesting to find that Zechariah, who is now talking to an angel, is doubting the veracity of what the angel’s message? But, before you laugh and or get frustrated with Zechariah, how often have you been found doubting the word of God?
Since he has doubted God’s word, the angel tells Zechariah that he will become mute until the birth of the child is realized. I wonder if Zechariah at this moment wonders if he’ll ever be able to talk again?
After his shift at the temple was over, Zechariah returns to his home, in an ordinary and unknown Judean town in the hill country. If Elizabeth is surprised by the fact that her husband is unable to talk, she must have been stunned with the news that Zechariah communicates to her (in writing?).
This scene is very reminiscent of when the angel of the Lord tells Abraham and Sarah that they were going to have a child in their old age, and Sarah breaks out laughing at the impossibility of the angel’s prophecy. Do you think Elizabeth laughed when she got the news?
If so, the laughter took on a new tone when they found the words of the angels were true! Verse 24 reads: “Elizabeth conceived.”
The whole scenario seems impossible and we are left with so many questions. Why would an angel come to two unknown people, in an unknown village, to be the parents of the great forerunner to the Messiah? How could an old man and woman defy the reality of having a child well past the time it was possible? And finally, was God Almighty was really coming to earth to change things forever? Now, those aren’t just questions that Zechariah and Elizabeth had to answer, they are questions we have to answer in our own life as well. Take some time today to do just that.
In a short time, this same angel will visit another woman by the name of Mary. In the course of his discussion with her he will say this: “Nothing will be impossible with God.” Maybe this should be our motto for us this Advent/Christmas season. As we live with so much unknown, the future so unpredictable, when things seemingly so out of control, and when we pray for things to change in ways that seem impossible, maybe we need to let the angel say to us: “Nothing will be impossible with God.”
Embracing the words, let us move on, beginning today, with great confidence, for God has entered the story!
~ God bless, Dan