Friday, December 23, 2016
by Ed Sauls
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.
Advent is the beginning of the Church year. It is the time that we prepare to celebrate the coming of Christ into our needy world, manifesting the grace of God. In a more secular sense, it is the time that we prepare for holiday gatherings, begin (or for some, finish) our Christmas shopping, and make our plans for attending church holiday season events. The Gospel according to Luke calls our attention back to the story that is the basis of our holiday celebration.
Elizabeth and Zechariah were a childless couple living in Nazareth. Though they were getting on in years, the angel Gabriel came to Zechariah and told him that Elizabeth would bear the couple a child for whom God had a special purpose. He was to be named John. Zechariah, being the “practical type”, expressed doubt as his wife was beyond what was considered childbearing age. Zechariah’s doubt caused Gabriel to strike Zechariah dumb until the things about which Gabriel spoke came about.
Sure enough, God’s messenger Gabriel was true to his word, and when the child was born, neighbors and relatives assumed the child would be named Zechariah after his father, as was the custom. When the long speechless Zechariah was asked what the child was to be named, to the astonishment of all he wrote on a tablet “his name is John.” Zechariah’s power of speech was immediately restored by his display of faith. The child John would be known to all Christians as John the Baptist.
This passage in Luke provides a lesson for us all about being strong in our faith. Zechariah let his “common sense” override the reality of the miraculous power of God. Because he did not believe, he had to learn the hard way to trust in the power of God, but he also learned that the minute that he showed his faith and obedience, he was made fully whole again. The lesson here is that yes, God does require our obedience, but God also loves us. Let us remember as we prepare to celebrate the coming of Christ during this advent season to be faithful to God who is ever faithful to us.