Welcome to my Advent blog. For the next few weeks I’ll be looking at how those involved in the Nativity narrative responded to God’s call. Please join me on this last journey of 2010 to see what God can say to us through the actions of Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, and even Herod and the Magi.
We enter these 4 weeks of preparation for Christmas, called Advent, with a look at Zechariah. His story is found in the Gospel of Luke (1:5-25). Zechariah was a priest who served in the Temple. He and his wife, Elizabeth, “were both righteous before God.” Like another righteous couple from generations earlier (Sarah and Abraham), they were childless and “getting on in years.”
“Year after year, there the priest would stand.
An offering of blood held out in his hand
Before the curtain there He would stand in fright.
It hung there to hold in the Holy to keep in the Light.”
Zechariah had no way of knowing that this time something amazing, life-changing, and indeed world changing would happen. “There appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was "terrified; and fear overwhelmed him.” The angel addresses Zechariah with comforting, if seemingly impossible, words, “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.”
It is difficult to wrap our mind around things when God acts in ways that we don’t anticipate or that seem impossible. We have our little corner of the world all mapped out and we are quite content with life the way it is. True, it’s not paradise, but it could be worse. Then God comes in and turns everything topsy-turvy. A job change or new opportunity makes us pack up and move. An accident or illness interrupts our carefully laid plans. Change happens to our carefully laid plans, no matter what.
Zechariah and Elizabeth had long ago come to terms with the fact that they would not be parents. Now, in the twilight of life, God announces, ‘you are going to have a child’. Not just any child, either, but the prophet announced by Malachi who prophecies, “I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.” (Malachi 4:5-6)
“When the time was full, another Priest came to save
Came the power to make anywhere a most holy place
A new and living Way…”
Next week we’ll meet Mary, a young girl whose response to God was very different from Zechariah’s.