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 favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”
How many times in your life have you been caught off guard by an event that you absolutely did not expect? Zechariah couldn’t believe the angel when he said that Elizabeth was going to have a baby. After all, they were both quite old. I’m old enough that I can’t even count the number of unexpected events that have occurred in my life. Some were just really exciting and others were tough things. That’s the way life is. There have been unexpected news of longed for babies to be born like Elizabeth and there have been unexpected news of the illness or loss of loved ones. The story of advent is really a series of surprises. Today’s blog is about Zechariah and Elizabeth’s surprise. Imagine how much they both wanted to believe they would have a child. I imagine they had given up hope for that to ever be a reality for them. Zechariah’s lack of belief caused some temporary discipline. Elizabeth accepted this surprise with humble belief and excitement. In recent years I often pray in the morning something like, “Lord, my plan today is……. But if you have something else you want me to do, show me and I’ll change my plan to yours.” So often I get a phone call or someone rings the doorbell and my day goes in a completely different direction. It’s interesting that on the days I don’t pray that way my day usually goes according to my original plan. So I have two questions for you to think about; 1. In the Advent story – are you a Zechariah or an Elizabeth? Do you believe the impossible is possible like Elizabeth or are you one who thinks that “impossible” means just that? 2. Are you willing to pray my morning prayer and mean it and just see what kind of unexpected things happen in your life?
Prayer: Lord, help me to expect and long for the unexpected from you. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.Cleta Sagramoso