Introduction: During this year’s Advent season, I am writing a weekly blog post with a story from the Bible, followed by a few thoughts and questions to contemplate / think about during the week. May this be a blessing to you throughout your time leading up to Christmas. Feel free to share your comments.
Week 1 Reading: Luke 1:5-25
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
(Luke 1:5-25 NIV)
In ancient times, being childless was often considered a social disgrace and a sign of God’s judgment on the couple. Elizabeth and Zechariah were very familiar with waiting. As the years passed, their hopes of ever having their dream fulfilled dimmed, flickered, then died. While their hope of having a child went away, their devotion to the Lord did not. As we are introduced to Zechariah and Elizabeth, we see that this social stigma was a wrong assumption about them, as they had lived and were living righteously in the sight of God (Luke 1:6).
After Elizabeth became pregnant, she went into seclusion for five months, praising God and rejoicing in God’s grace and love (vv. 24-25).
Some thoughts to ponder this week:
- How would you describe your response to waiting? Doing everything humanly possible to change your situation? Give up, resigned to the idea that your situation is permanent? Or looking forward to see what God will do during this time?
- What does your response to waiting reveal about your relationship to God?
- What is the one thing you are waiting for? What value might there be in seeking solitude (as Elizabeth did) and sit with God during this waiting period? Where, in your busy schedule, can you intentionally carve out some blocks of time for you and God to have some quiet and solitude together?