Advent Devotion for December 13
Candle Lighter says: “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah!”
Response: “God has heard your prayer.”
SCRIPTURE: Luke 1:5-17
5 When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. 6 Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. 7 They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.
8 One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. 9 As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10 While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.
11 While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. 13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”
SOME THOUGHTS: This pericope is the very familiar account of the angel Gabriel telling the old priest Zechariah that he will be the father of John, the forerunner of the Messiah. What happens is truly a miracle but, to me, there is something even more wonderful about our God that unfolds in this event. Some background will help frame what happens a little more clearly. First of all, as you know, not anyone could become a priest. You didn’t audition for the job. You had to be born into the right family, the family of Levi. (That is one of the reasons genealogies are so important in the Bible and why such great care was taken in recording them.) All the way back in I Chronicles 24:10 we find that Abijah was one of the twenty-four descendants of the two remaining sons of Aaron. (Nadab and Abihu offered unholy fire and died.) Abijah’s was the eighth of the twenty-four lots. Aaron was God’s chosen priest and established the protocol for priestly duties. Aaron and Moses were of the tribe of Levi but not all Levites were priests, just those who descended from Aaron. Why is this significant? God chose to work through the priestly line to bring the prophet who would announce the coming of the Messiah king. As it turns out both father and mother were from the priestly line of Aaron. In other words, John the Baptist was purebred priest! There were many priests in each of the twenty-four orders. Lots were drawn to determine which man would serve in the Temple. The privilege to serve may come only once in a priest’s lifetime and so was a great honor. Though they had prayed for children, Zechariah and Elizabeth were childless. When his name was drawn, my guess is many of his friends were waiting outside for him to finish his duties. When he delayed in coming out, they figured something was amiss. The appearance of the angel in the Temple was unsettling to say the least, but the message was clear. Zechariah and Elizabeth were to become parents of the forerunner of the Messiah. The Scripture tells us that John was filled with the Holy Spirit while still in utero. Our wonderful God worked through an ordinary occurrence, rolling the dice to select a person for a specific task (!), and accomplished His will in a remarkable, miraculous way. Yet all the details were in perfect order. A prophet who was from the priestly line announced the coming of the King, One who was the Prophet proclaiming the gospel to the world, the Priest who continually intercedes on behalf of His children, and the coming King. Look today for God’s hand in the ordinary things of your life. They may become extra ordinary. God is in the details.
MUSIC: Comfort Ye & Every Valley Shall Be Exalted by Handel's Messiah (Nicholas Sharratt) (YouTube)
PRAYER: Almighty Lord our God, direct our steps into the way of peace, and strengthen our hearts to obey Thy commands; may the Day-spring visit us from on high, and give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death; that they may adore Thee for Thy mercy, follow thee for Thy truth, desire Thee for thy sweetness, who art the blessed Lord God of Israel. Amen.