An Advent Journey: Reflections for Weary Travelers — Day Fourteen


Luke 1:5-17, The Message

During the rule of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest assigned service in the regiment of Abijah. His name was Zachariah. His wife was descended from the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. Together they lived honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God. But they were childless because Elizabeth could never conceive, and now they were quite old.

It so happened that as Zachariah was carrying out his priestly duties before God, working the shift assigned to his regiment, it came his one turn in life to enter the sanctuary of God and burn incense. The congregation was gathered and praying outside the Temple at the hour of the incense offering. Unannounced, an angel of God appeared just to the right of the altar of incense. Zachariah was paralyzed in fear.

But the angel reassured him, “Don’t fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John. You’re going to leap like a gazelle for joy, and not only you—many will delight in his birth. He’ll achieve great stature with God.

“He’ll drink neither wine nor beer. He’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he leaves his mother’s womb. He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God. He will herald God’s arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened skeptics—he’ll get the people ready for God.”

I love Zachariah. He gives me hope! He was old, he was faithful, he was also uncertain, frightened and eventually, silenced! But this beautiful promise? This assurance of answered prayer? It changes him in profound ways. And it changes the world in profound ways, too. John, we’re told, was filled with the Spirit from the get-go, a dedicated servant of God from infancy. Another Elijah. Do you get that? That right there is the prophetic fulfillment the people of God had been waiting for — Elijah was to come again, to announce the coming of the Messiah, the anointed one, the promised one, the deliverer. Only Elijah didn’t look like Elijah, did he? Nope. He looked like John. And the Messiah? He didn’t look like what they expected, either.

But then, he never does.

Lord, thank you for the many ways in which you surprise us! Thank you for being the kind of Messiah who uses love as your only weapon and forgiveness as your only shield. Thank you for calling us to newness of life in the kingdom of God, that kingdom of upside-downness and wonderful, unexpected strangeness. Give us eyes to see, Lord. Eyes to see.

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  1. Oh, yes–eyes to see the surprises. I don’t want to be one of those old sticks in the mud who hangs on to preconceived ideas held for so long they feel like truth. Only they aren’t. Lord, may I too be ready to accept those new things you’ve ordained; may I continually allow your newness of life to impact my spirit. Thank you, Diana, for a thought-provoking, prayer-inducing post!