Advent Series Day 13: Luke 1:5-23

December 19, 2017

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:5-23

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him:
“Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, 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.”

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

Questions for children:
What other married couple in the Bible do Zechariah and Elizabeth remind you of?
Do you know which Old Testament prophet Gabriel is quoting?

Explanation and Meditation:

The time now is very close for the revealing of the Promised Son. Can you feel the anticipation? Our Bibles have just one page separating the Old from the New Testaments, but that one flimsy page represents 400 years of silence from God. In those 400 years, Israel had first been invaded by Pompey the Great and then later annexed into the Roman Empire. All without a word from their God. But at last, he was ready to speak. And so God sent the angel Gabriel to tell Zechariah the priest that he was finally going to send that Elijah-like prophet who would prepare the way for the Lord, who would signal God’s return to Israel, and who would preach repentance from the heart.

In his message, Gabriel quotes the prophet Malachi whose words we read yesterday. (Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6) Like any good priest, Zechariah should have recognized the significance of what God was saying. His soon to be son–one that he and his wife had often begged God for over the course of their lifetimes–was going to be the promised prophet whose arrival would signal the return of the Lord to Israel!

But Zechariah did not exercise the faith of Abraham in that moment. He had trouble believing God’s words. Nevertheless, God was again about to overcome infertility and old age to bring about his precious promises. John the Baptist would be born and his voice would be heard from the wilderness calling, “Prepare the way for the Lord; make straight paths for him!” (Isaiah 40:3 and Mark 1:3)

 

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