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Monday, 4 January 2016

Luke 1:5-25: A priest, a messenger, and big, big trouble

Here's a story that's familiar. An old man who yearns for a son, but is childless. A godly man. A man whose prayers are about to be answered.

What's his name? Abraham? No, we've had him before. This time it's Zechariah, who, like me, is a priest. Unlike me, he only had to do his priestly duties once in a while, when his name came up on the rota. But today, he'll be wishing he'd done a swap with a colleague.

Why? Because 9 times out of 10, 999 out of a 1000, when you lead worship of God, nothing happens. Well, nothing extraordinary.

But not today.

Today, there was a great crowd standing outside praying, and Zechariah enters the sanctuary to burn incense to the Lord. The great crowd were waiting, and waiting, and waiting for him to reappear, and when he did, he could no longer speak. Frantically gesticulating, he managed to make them understand that he'd had some kind of vision while he was in there. (Pretty impressive impromptu sign language!)

But more than that, he couldn't convey. So he went home, to make his wife pregnant. (Was that anything to do with the act that he'd stopped talking?)

Now to study the bit I've missed out. The secret bit. The bit that only Zechariah and Gabriel witnessed. What struck me as I read it?

Only this. What sort of priest is it, that gets a message of great joy, and tremendous good news, and reacts with disbelief?

An old one. A tired one, who's fed up of waiting, and hoping, and believing that a better day will come. It hasn't come for him and his wife, it hasn't come for the people of Israel. What is the point of praying any longer?

But today is a good day for Zechariah, for Israel, and for the world. He may have lost faith, but God hasn't. He's preparing the way, he's opening the door for a baby to be born who will give Zechariah back his mojo, give Israel a new prophet, and give the world someone who will prepare the way for its saviour.

Today is a good day. Make no mistake. It will take Zechariah some time to realise it, but in the end he will. And for us, we meet the first of many who will sing God's praises as his new dawn breaks on the world.

1 comment:

  1. Zechariah has probably given up all hope of having children and he goes into the Temple to find Gabriel leaning on the alter (probably thinking "How am I going to convince this old guy that this will really happen?") Despite his faith in God Zechariah has a problem accepting this and can't believe it, whereas his wife Elizabeth is over the moon about it despite her age. Her faith in God was incredible.