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Luke 1:5-25

The Word of God

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. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years. Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then 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. 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. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 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. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 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." 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." 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. 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." Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. 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. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home. After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, "This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people."

Luke 1:5-25
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • “Zechariah, your prayer has been heard.” For how many years had Zechariah been making that prayer? For so many, that he had ceased to believe it would ever be answered. His doubt is so great that he askes for a sign. Is it a coincidence that the sign he is given is to be struck dumb? Unable to speak, all he can do now is listen. As God has listened to him over the years. As God listens to me.
    • “...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”.Can I see myself contributing to this mission?
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    • Elizabeth was barren and God intervened to show his power. Where is my life barren, empty? Where do I want God to intervene for me?
    • Zechariah doubted the angel’s message and was punished for it. I ask God’s help with my own doubts and difficulties.
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    • Zechariah and Elizabeth belonged among the Lord’s own ‘little ones’ of the earth, among the ‘God fearing’ masses. Each of them, judged by the depth of their belief, could be rated as being ‘one in a thousand’ – while, to the external view, each was unknown and just like a thousand others. And God seemed to be even withholding the award that might have been expected in those days - they were childless.
    • The award did finally arrive – but not without some further testing of faith, given the couple’s stage in life. And Zechariah learned also that the child foretold had already been made over to the designs of the Lord - the child was being sent to prepare the way, in a role akin to that always expected of the prophet Elijah – for God’s final intervention in the last days of this age. Even the name (‘God has shown favour’) being invoked for the child, spoke of God’s intention.
    • Certainly, God’s ways are not our ways; and the very people who have always tried to remain fully loyal to the Lord, are sometimes going to find themselves called to even deeper faith – involving an ever more privileged closeness to God.
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    • Despite all his prayer, and reassurance from the angel, Zechariah is unable to put his trust and faith in God’s way. The consequence was months of isolation, unable to communicate. Despite his obstinacy, God’s favour is seen in the birth of his son.
    • Elizabeth has no difficulty in acknowledging the source of new life. “This is what the Lord has done for me.” This Advent day, can I reflect back on my life and say likewise?
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    • This was a red-letter day for Zechariah: he had been chosen by lot from the hundreds of available priests, to offer incense for the Jewish nation. His childlessness, the great grief of his life, would have been on his mind as he prayed. The revelation that he would be the father of a special child was such an answer to prayer as to strike him speechless.
    • Lord, before I existed, my parents prayed that I would be born, would live, and would have a destiny with you. I thank you for the wonder of my being.
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    • Between today and Christmas Day, the liturgy features three Old Testament women who become pregnant against all the odds – Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, the unnamed mother of Samson, and Hannah, mother of Samuel. They remind us that God is in control of the human story, and intervenes graciously in favour of the helpless and despised.
    • Gabriel was sent to bring good news to Zechariah, who did not believe his words. Have I ears to hear the good news the Lord constantly speaks to me?
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    • ‘Both were getting on in years.’ Perhaps this is true of me also! But the message is that God can do wonderful things in us when we feel we can do nothing. Even the daily prayer of the Sacred Space community affects the world for good in ways unknown to us. I ask the Lord to hear our prayer as he heard the prayer of Zechariah.
    • Zechariah became dumb because he did not believe the good news. If I do not believe the good news I too will have nothing worthwhile to say to others. I sit with Elizabeth and ask her for a share in her faith.
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • This was a red-letter day for Zechariah: he had been chosen by lot from the hundreds of available priests, to offer incense for the Jewish nation. His childlessness, the great grief of his life, would have been on his mind as he prayed. The revelation that he would be the father of a special child was such an answer to prayer as to strike him speechless.
    • Lord, before I existed, my parents prayed that I would be born, would live, would have a destiny with you. I thank you for the wonder of my being.
    • Zechariah served as a priest in the Jerusalem Temple. One of the duties of the priests was to keep the brazier burning that stood on the altar of incense in front of the Holy of Holies. They would fill the brazier with fresh incense before the morning sacrifice, and again at the evening sacrifice. It was during such an occasion that God's messenger, Gabriel, appears and foretells the birth of John the Baptist. Later, when his wife Elizabeth, against all odds, finds herself pregnant, she proclaims, "This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people." Barrenness was considered a humiliation and even God's punishment
    • As I contemplate this scene, am I ever awed by the great things God has done for me during my life?