Monday, November 29, 2010

You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth

Luke 1:8-25 NLT  
   8 One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. 9 As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10 While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying. 
   11  While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. 13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” 
   18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” 
   19 Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! 20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.” '
   21  Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long. 22 When he finally did come out, he couldn’t speak to them. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary. 
   23  When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. 24 Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. 25 “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”

All of the stories told around Advent season each year are dear to our hearts and this one is no exception. It almost comes off as a sad bit of buffoonery, with Zechariah asking too many questions and being stunned into loss of speech until the birth of John. But it is not buffoonery, it is a near tragedy. Zechariah-- a spiritual leader in Israel, who had been praying faithfully for decades for a child received an answer, His response, however was to question the veracity of the angel and the power of Creator God.

Unlike Mary, who would later ask "how is this possible. . ." Zechariah made the error of asking for a sign of proof. The angel appearing should have been all the proof anyone should have needed.  Not only was Zechariah doubting the Angel he dared to ask God for even more signs. That was the very same sin that often frustrated Jesus about the Jewish leaders in that they ignored the obvious miracles and asked for more 'signs.'  The angel silences Zechariah and he must remain that way until later when the child is born and he complies in naming him John, rather than after himself as would have been the custom. 

The greatest thing about this story is that His prayers are answered even though he made an error in judgment about how to respond to an angel delivering God's promise. And the promise was to more than he and his wife-- it was to all human kind. The promise was the miracle of the Savior, Christ the Lord, the Sacrificial Lamb, the hope for life eternal to all who are willing to believe. An angel has delivered us great news as well, albeit through Zechariah's story. That promise comes with complete written explanation in the inspired Scripture the Holy Bible. I don't think it is a good idea for anyone to doubt and demand even more proof. God may give it in a way that you are not expecting. Why not simply listen, ask God for more strength of faith to believe, and apply that faith to your ongoing walk with the Messiah?  We, too, can have great joy and gladness and rejoice at the Messiah's coming into the world.
Your servant in His love

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