Advent 1, Sunday November 29, 2015.
After video reflection on Elizabeth and Zechariah
Luke 1:5-25 Finding the silence.
…..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 favour and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
PRAY: Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord that we may know you better. Amen.
All of God’s history for thousands of years narrows down and focuses in on this moment. Everything the Prophets, the poetry, the prayers, the songs and the Patriarchs of God’s community experienced and proclaimed to the world has come to these times.
God begins his long promised intervention that will be the final word, the master stroke and the seismic shift the world needs to find lasting hope and joy – wounds healed, marriages restored, families made strong in love, communities connected and thriving, hope in trouble, love triumphing over hatred, the Lion and the lamb, the desert springing up with living water. The images go on and on and they are Advent.
Like a king entering the palace or Queen Elizabeth visiting a city, a bride and groom entering the reception banquet or an event coming through the main street of town, the Saviour of the world needed an announcer; a forerunner; someone to show the people that things were quickening up, change was on the way, a new time was beginning.
John was that announcer; the forerunner of what was to come. He is highly esteemed by the gospel witnesses, and especially by the Apostle John for this high calling which he fulfilled with the cost of his freedom and his own life.
John was a gift from a God on the move to Elizabeth and Zechariah. They longed for a baby all their lives and now quite miraculously, they received one – just like Sarah and Abraham, and the cousin we will soon hear of, Mary and her bewildered husband, Joseph. This baby boy was a gift to the whole world. The gift was surprising, powerful, fiery and world shaping.
This Advent news was big news – too big for Zechariah! He was literally dumbfounded by that senior angel among angels – Gabriel.
2 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.
“Gripped by fear” we hear. Like seeing a roaring bushfire sweeping toward you over the hill this week or seeing a ghost or being shocked when you have a close call in the car.
This was the announcement of the “The Day of the Lord” long known about and feared by the people. It felt like the Day of the Lord on Wednesday afternoon didn’t it? But we who know Jesus trust that this day in the temple which tested Zechariah’s trust in God’s promises would begin the process of undoing that fatal attraction to self we humans share – the attraction our first parents, Adam and Eve enacted as they rejected the Lord in the garden and chose to be ‘like God” themselves.
But as is always the case when God’s messengers announce what God is doing, the first words they speak to us humans are “Don’t be afraid”. Don’t be afraid because God is not out to destroy you or bring you down. This day when Zechariah and the family were overwhelmed by the news of God’s messenger showed that God was doing something big, something surprising, something beyond us to change us and change things for the better, for the good.
John was for the good of the world. A fiery man to call the world to stop speaking, and listen. He had to be fiery otherwise no one would listen. He had to call people to turn away from their own words, dreams, visions of self to get them ready for the good stuff – the sweet food of a God coming to save the place, shift the destiny of a broken world, love the hurting, dying, suffering creatures he loves.
Advent is here. We will again hear of God’s coming Saviour and how that played out in our history and reflect on how his comes to daily and what it means that he will soon come again to be the end point and fulfilment of everything and everyone. Like Zechariah, the time for speaking will come again as we take a peek in the stable and catch a glimpse of the impossible thing that God is with us – for real.
Could we find a still tongue and an open ear to watch, wait and listen in these days? Might we drag out the bible and actually ponder it more deeply again for ourselves?
The news is good! God is one of us as much as he is beyond us and either way, he is on about resurrecting, restoring and renewing you in great love. This love casts out all fear and brings pure freedom for living now.
Zechariah gets his charcoal and writes on his papyrus for us all to hear – “Stay quiet in the noise and still in the busy pre-Christmas pace. Stay like me – a little wordless, a little speechless, a little different! Don’t speak for a bit. Listen for a while. Find the silence. Find the Word. Find the hush, as the song says. Find the silence of Zechariah somewhere in this crazy busy time.
Might we be Zachariah for 10 minutes or 10 hours one day. Ponder the messenger Gabriel, the messenger, John, the delighted woman, Elizabeth…..and hear the joy, love the hope for yourself and for the people you love.
When Jesus gives you that gift again, then write, speak, act to your heart’s content so they hear the joy and the hope and the big and surprising news that God is, and God is with us, and God is not out to get us but with us and for us – Emmanuel.
Have a look at the bible text carefully. maybe take note of;
- the specific historical introduction to when this happened (Why so specific?)
- The family names mentioned (Why and hat does this matter?)
- The nature of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s character mentioned (Why?)
- The age and situation they lived in. (Remind you of anyone in the Old Testament? if so, what are the links between what God was doing then and in this account?)
- Notice how the temple worked for families.
- Note the first response to the appearance and voice of an angel? Remind you of other accounts of the same thing?
- Who, when, Where? Share as many as you like.
- Note the first response of the angel? Any other times this happened in the bible you remember?
- Then note the news from the angel (which means ‘messenger’).
- What will this boy do and say? What is his God’s given calling/role in life?
Is this a role you have as a Christian in some way?
See Zechariah’s response. Note what he says:
- “How can I be sure?…..We are too old…”
- How do you understand this question of Gabriel? What does it show about Zechariah’s emotions, thinking, faith?
If it was you being called to trust in the messenger, what might you offer up as reasons why this gift of God could not possibly happen to you? Share your thoughts here a while…..
Nine months is a long time to not be able to speak! Why does God do this to Zechariah do you think?
Contrast Zechariah’s response to Sarah and Abraham (Genesis 12) and Mary (Luke 1:29-38).
- Can you place yourself with them and see where you are at the moment in terms of trust Jesus for your calling, work, study, hopes and dreams for relationships.
- Are you like Zechariah and Mary in some ways and are you a bit different too?
- Eventually both Elizabeth and Zechariah says something. Right at the end of our text in verse 25, Elizabeth speaks.
- Then in Luke 1:67, Zechariah sings!
- Check out the rich depth of his song. it says a lot about the whole Bible and an dhow it all proclaims one child – not John, But Jesus!
- Mary sings too! her song (called in Latin; The Magnificat) has been the words that God’s people have used in their own songs, prayers and worship words for a very long time.
Pray… Mary’s song replacing Mary with your name(s)!