Luke 1:5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years. 8 Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10 Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16 He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
Luke 1:57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.....
The parents are promised a son who will give them “joy and gladness”. At the same time this son would become a preacher who will “turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God”. All too often parents believe that their joy will be found in keeping a tight hold on their children. John’s parents discovered that their joy would be found only when they became willing to let go of their child so that he could be available to serve God in the community.
Jesus-followers are God’s trustees of our children – but we are not to possess them. Instead they are to be set free to serve God.
Pray the Prayer of Zechaiah.
Better still – find someone to read it responsively with you:
Luke 1:68 "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favourably on his people and redeemed them.
Luk 1:69 He has raised up a mighty saviour for us in the house of his servant David,
Luk 1:70 as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
Luk 1:71 that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Luk 1:72 Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant,
Luk 1:73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us
Luk 1:74 that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear,
Luk 1:75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
Luk 1:76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
Luk 1:77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins.
Luk 1:78 By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us,
Luk 1:79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."
First Sunday in Advent
2. Preparing the Way
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 20.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.