First Week in Advent
Luke 1:1-25 (Common English Bible)
Many people have already applied themselves to the task of compiling an account of the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used what the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed down to us. Now, after having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, I have also decided to write a carefully ordered account for you, most honorable Theophilus. I want you to have confidence in the soundness of the instruction you have received.
During the rule of King Herod of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah. His wife Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron. They were both righteous before God, blameless in their observance of all the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to become pregnant and they both were very old. One day Zechariah was serving as a priest before God because his priestly division was on duty. Following the customs of priestly service, he was chosen by lottery to go into the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense. All the people who gathered to worship were praying outside during this hour of incense offering. An angel from the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw the angel, he was startled and overcome with fear.
The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayers have been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to your son and you must name him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many people will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the Lord’s eyes. He must not drink wine and liquor. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth. He will bring many Israelites back to the Lord their God. He will go forth before the Lord, equipped with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will turn the hearts of fathers[a] back to their children, and he will turn the disobedient to righteous patterns of thinking. He will make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? My wife and I are very old.”
The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in God’s presence. I was sent to speak to you and to bring this good news to you. Know this: What I have spoken will come true at the proper time. But because you didn’t believe, you will remain silent, unable to speak until the day when these things happen.”
Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they wondered why he was in the sanctuary for such a long time. When he came out, he was unable to speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he gestured to them and couldn’t speak. When he completed the days of his priestly service, he returned home. Afterward, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant. She kept to herself for five months, saying, “This is the Lord’s doing. He has shown his favor to me by removing my disgrace among other people.”
We have begun the season of Advent; a time of preparation and anticipation. Anticipation for the celebration of the Christ Child born and return, and preparation in our hearts and lives to fully experience the season in all it’s glory and joy.
This time of year, it seems we mainly focus on the birth of Jesus Christ. Many of us can tell this story by heart. Because of this, we can miss what was going on. We hear about God who came down to earth in the form of a human, Jesus Christ; but does this reality affect us as it did the first time we heard it?
Re-read the first paragraph of the scripture above (first 4 verses). What do you notice?
Luke is writing to Theophilus (name means “lover of God”) to show him the carefully researched life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Luke was disciplining Theophilus so he could understand who Jesus was and is, and so he could grow in his faith. One of the parts of Christianity we miss, at times, is we are not called to simply be disciples (one who learns). Yes we are supposed to grow in our faith and continually learn more about God who moves in and through our lives; but we cannot stop at this point. Our more important role as Christians is one who goes to make disciples for Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20). When we step out to tell the stories of our faith to other people, something remarkable happens: we grow in our faith and have greater understanding of and a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.
Look at the next few paragraphs in the scripture above. Zechariah, a priest, is worshipping in the temple when suddenly he encounters an angel (messenger from God) to tell him he is about to be able to conceive a son; and he is to name the boy John.
Zechariah was worshipping God in, what I perceive to be, a quiet room. How many of us can say we have had an experience like this before when we worship? The reality was, he was simply doing what he was supposed to do. Even when we are just doing a task to check it off our list, God can and does allow us to encounter Him. The question we would have to ask is, “are we ready to experience God because we expect to?”
After this encounter in the temple, Zechariah has to somehow tell his wife, Elizabeth, they are going to have a baby. Do you see what happened here? Zechariah was told he and his wife were going to have a baby and Zechariah had a part to play after hearing the news.
Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son woudl be the forerunner for Jesus who would be born six months after John. Imagine the stories told to John and the rest of the family and friends as to how and why John came to be born. My kids love to hear about times when they were younger. They love to hear what life was like before they were born, and how the world is a better place now because they are in it.
Stories of our faith are important. We have to begin with the back story to set the tone when we tell them because the impact of the story changes if we skip directly to the climax.
As we begin this Advent season, let us remember the stories and truths of our faith so we can pass them on to those are us. Seek to become a disciple maker and trust your faith will develop and grow deeper.
Remember this: When God intervenes in our world, everything is different!