Daily Reflection – 12/19/2022
Keepers Of The Tabernacle
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth; for he will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they wondered at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he made signs to them and remained dumb.
And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she hid herself, saying, “Thus the Lord has done to me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.” (Luke 1:5-25)
Today’s scripture presents a remarkable scene. An aged Zechariah is told by an angel of God that his wife will bear him a son. Not just a son but one of the most holy of sons, John the Baptist.
It’s no surprise that he was filled with some doubt. How could this be? Moving from sterility to fertility.
This is the season that each of us doesn’t have to doubt. We know that Christ is to be born. In this season of gifts, we are given the greatest of gifts. His birth.
As we review the past year of our lives, perhaps some of us were sterile in our faith. Our prayers were listless. Events did not turn out as we hoped, and we might have lost some of our faith or even doubted.
We NEED to hold onto what Advent is to be for us. It’s that time when the Lord wants to make a similar miracle in us. He wants us to move from the sterility of our faith to the fertility of our love for Jesus Christ.
And we should pause and think about that. To think about what Christmas means to us.
How is it for you? If you find that you lack magic of the season, do you think it makes sense to go out and look for Christmas? That is an important question and the answer to it depends on what you think you are looking for. Because in one sense looking for Christmas is foolish, but in another it is not only wise, but necessary.
If what you are looking for is your childhood, those simple days when Christmas happened like a force of nature, then looking is a waste of time. We cannot live our lives backwards. We cannot become children again. We are adults, with adult responsibility and experiences. Our lives are complex and busy. We cannot experience Christmas with the simplicity of a child in which the thrill of the holiday overrides everything else.
Yet—even though it is useless to go out looking for our childhood, the child within us can still help us look for Christmas. I say this because the one thing that is certain about children at Christmas is that they believe. They believe that the gifts will arrive. They believe that their family will be together. They believe that Christmas morning will be wonderful. It is that childlike faith that we can imitate even as adults.
What then is our faith? What do we as adults believe? Let me remind you. We believe that God has made us and given us the Son as our Savior. We believe that God loves us and is always working to bring life out of death and light out of darkness. We believe that God is a present force in our life and that whatever we have to face, whatever we have to deal with, God is always seeking to bless us and to give us joy. With that faith we can celebrate Christmas even if we are dealing with sickness or grief or problems in our family. Because even in those circumstances we believe that God is still looking for an opportunity to touch us and to give us peace. In faith, even though our lives are complex and busy, we believe that it only takes a moment for God to seize us and give us joy.
That moment might come in a chance conversation with a stranger in the mall. It might happen in a glance of gratitude that someone gives us because of our generosity. It can surprise us in sudden laughter that interrupts a long illness or struggle. It can emerge in an intimate touch from a faithful spouse. Like Mary and Elizabeth in today’s Gospel, that moment can be as simple as a meeting of old friends who recount what has happened in their lives and how God has blessed them.
For children Christmas is a month-long crescendo building to a dramatic climax on Christmas morning. But, for most of us adults, our lives are too complex to sustain that kind of celebration. Fortunately, all adults need is a moment, a moment in which the truth breaks through, a moment in which we remember again that God is real, that we are loved, that life is good. Such a moment could happen today, or Christmas morning, or two weeks from now. But whenever it happens, whenever God’s love breaks through, it is then that Christmas will arrive.
Now we all enjoy the traditions of the season. It would be beautiful if all the shopping and baking and planning and customs would pull together in a harmonious build up to a dramatic climax this Sunday morning. But adults know that Christmas is deeper than all those things, deeper than Santa, deeper than gifts, deeper than Christmas morning. Christmas is whenever the love of God breaks through and touches our lives.
So, if you have not yet caught the Christmas spirit, if you are not filled with holiday excitement, do not be afraid to go out and look for Christmas. Now you know what you’re looking for.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, you bring hope and restoration to your people. Restore and strengthen Christian family life today. Help me to love and serve my family. May your love rule in all my relationships and remove any barriers to peace and harmony.”
In the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist, the angel explains to Zechariah the role his son is to play in preparing the way for the Messiah. John will be great in the sight of God. He will live as a Nazarite (see Numbers 6) – a person set apart for the Lord. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even within his mother’s womb. And he shall be sent to the people of God, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers and children to God and one another, by turning the “disobedient to the wisdom of the just.” The name John means “the Lord is gracious”. When God acts to save us he graciously fills us with his Holy Spirit and makes our faith “alive” to his promises. Do you pray that “the hearts of parents and children may be turned to God and one another”?