Dec 19 2019 Reflection
Thursday 19 December 2019
First Reading: JGS 13:2-7, 24-25A
My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I will sing your glory!
PS 71:3-4A, 5-6AB, 16-17
Gospel Reading: LK 1:5-25
Today’s Note: Thursday of the Third Week of Advent
In the days of Herod, King of Judea,
there was a priest named Zechariah
of the priestly division of Abijah;
his wife was from the daughters of Aaron,
and her name was Elizabeth.
Both were righteous in the eyes of God,
observing all the commandments
and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.
But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren
and both were advanced in years.
Once when he was serving as priest
in his division’s turn before God,
according to the practice of the priestly service,
he was chosen by lot
to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense.
Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside
at the hour of the incense offering,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him,
standing at the right of the altar of incense.
Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah,
because your prayer has been heard.
Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,
and you shall name him John.
And 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 will drink neither wine nor strong drink.
He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb,
and he will turn many of the children of Israel
to the Lord their God.
He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah
to turn the hearts of fathers toward children
and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous,
to prepare a people fit for the Lord.”
Then Zechariah said to the angel,
“How shall I know this?
For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”
And the angel said to him in reply,
“I am Gabriel, who stand before God.
I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news.
But now you will be speechless and unable to talk
until the day these things take place,
because you did not believe my words,
which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”
Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah
and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary.
But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them,
and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary.
He was gesturing to them but remained mute.
Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home.
After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived,
and she went into seclusion for five months, saying,
“So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit
to take away my disgrace before others.”
Do you believe that God will fulfill all his promises just as he said? Advent is a time to renew our hope and confidence in God’s faithfulness to the covenant he made with his people. In preparing the way for a Savior, we see the wondrous miracle of two barren couples who conceive and bear sons – Samson in the Old Testament (Judges 13) and John the Baptist in the New Testament (Luke 1:5ff) – who are called by God to bring hope and deliverance at a time of spiritual darkness and difficulty for the people of God.
A blessing beyond expectations
Zechariah was a godly man who was tuned to God’s voice. He was born into a priestly family and it was his privilege to be chosen to enter the inner court of the temple to offer sacrifice to God. Luke records that the people wondered at Zechariah’s delay and were amazed that he was speechless when he withdrew from the inner sanctuary. They rightly perceived that he had a special encounter with God. God’s angelic messenger greeted Zechariah with a blessing beyond his expectations.
“Your prayer is heard! You will have a son! And his mission will be great for all of Israel.”
Now that seemed like a lot for Zechariah to take in all at once. Could God really do a miracle for his barren wife, Elizabeth? The angel somewhat wisely put Zechariah in his place before God’s mighty action. He became speechless until the day the infant was dedicated to the Lord and given the name, John. When God draws us into his presence, he wants us to be still and quiet before him so we can listen to his voice as he speaks to our hearts and reveals his mind to us. Do you listen attentively to the Lord and do you ponder his word in your heart with trust and confidence?
The Lord is gracious
In the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist, the angel explains to Zechariah the role his son is to play in preparing the way for the Messiah. John will be great in the sight of God. He will live as a Nazarite (see Numbers 6) – a person set apart for the Lord. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even within his mother’s womb. And he shall be sent to the people of God, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers and children to God and one another, by turning the “disobedient to the wisdom of the just.” The name John means “the Lord is gracious”. When God acts to save us he graciously fills us with his Holy Spirit and makes our faith “alive” to his promises. Do you pray that “the hearts of parents and children may be turned to God and one another”?
“Lord Jesus, you bring hope and restoration to your people. Restore and strengthen Christian family life today. Help me to love and serve my family. May your love rule in all my relationships and remove any barriers to peace and harmony.”