Luke 1: 56-80
And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.
Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.
A little over 2,000 years ago there were a couple of unexpected births that had people talking. There was, of course, that really famous one in Bethlehem, but there was another one about six months earlier that is almost as famous. Zechariah and Elizabeth, despite their advanced age, had a baby boy. Their friends just assumed that the baby would be named after his father, but the boy’s parents went against the social norms and named him John. All of the unexpected circumstances surrounding John’s birth prompted people to ask, “What then will this child become?”
We all have a birth story, a story of how and when we took our first breath and began the journey of life. Contained within each of our birth stories are our family heritage and our expected future, based on our circumstances at the time of our birth. Our birth stories are the opening sentences of the definition of our lives. Sometimes they are something to live up to; sometimes they are something to overcome. But they are all fraught with expectations. And there is a good chance that, upon the news of our birth and based entirely on those expectations, at least one person thought or said some version of, “What then will this child become?”
The page containing our definition of self often has a lot of entries on it before we ever get a word of input. Then, as we grow, we read what has been written about us and start to think that all of it is true. Far too often we adopt expectations for ourselves and our lives that are unfair, unrealistic or unhealthy. If we’re not careful, sometimes those expectations can bind our spirits in such a way that we never reach toward our God-given passions or callings.
But Advent is about all of the UN-expectations that God has for us and our lives. God wants us to live beyond that which binds our spirits to become the UN-expectedly beautiful beings that we were created to be. And God will break down the barrier between heaven and earth to help us to do just that. Just as the hand of the Lord was with John from his birth, so it is with each of us, helping us to rewrite those definitions of ourselves, the stories of our lives.
What is the story of your life? How have you defined yourself? Is God asking you to reconsider that definition?— Rev. Eve Williams
Prayer: O God, help me to better understand my own story, and help me rewrite myself as you created me to be. Amen.
“I Will Sing the Wondrous Story” – solo by Rev. Eve Williams