Advent Devotional: Week Two - Sunday


Scripture Reading: Luke 1:5-25, 57-80

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest of Abijah’s division named Zechariah. His wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord. But they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and both of them were well along in years.

When his division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, it happened that he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. At the hour of incense the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and overcome with fear.

But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. There will be joy and delight for you, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and will never drink wine or beer. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. 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 fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people."

“How can I know this?” Zechariah asked the angel. “For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.”

The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. Now listen! You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them. Then they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept making signs to them and remained speechless. When the days of his ministry were completed, he went back home.

After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived and kept herself in seclusion for five months. She said, “The Lord has done this for me. He has looked with favor in these days to take away my disgrace among the people.”

Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she had a son. Then her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her His great mercy, and they rejoiced with her. When they came to circumcise the child on the eighth day, they were going to name him Zechariah, after his father. But his mother responded, “No! He will be called John.” Then they said to her, “None of your relatives has that name.” So they motioned to his father to find out what he wanted him to be called. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote: HIS NAME IS JOHN. And they were all amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came on all those who lived around them, and all these things were being talked about throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard about him took it to heart, saying, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the Lord’s hand was with him.

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: "Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has visited and provided redemption for His people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, just as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets in ancient times; salvation from our enemies and from the clutches of those who hate us. He has dealt mercifully with our fathers and remembered His holy covenant — the oath that He swore to our father Abraham. He has given us the privilege, since we have been rescued from our enemies’ clutches, to serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness in His presence all our days. And child, you will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways, to give His people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the Dawn from on high will visit us to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."

The child grew up and became spiritually strong, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

Old Zechariah was promised something that seemed too good to be true: the Angel Gabriel told

him his old, barren wife would give birth to a son. Zechariah thought it too good to be true.

People like them don’t have babies. So Zechariah asked the angel for a sign, something to prove

the promise true.

The angel gave him a sign: Zechariah didn’t speak again until his son was born.

When he finally spoke again, he sang a song of prophecy. He used language from his Bible (the

Old Testament) to praise God for keeping his promises and delivering his people.

He also said his son, John, would tell people to do what Zechariah didn’t do: Take God at his

word.

When we sing the songs of Advent, in many ways we are singing the song of Zechariah. We sing

songs founded on the images and promises of hope and expectation. We sing of promises

fulfilled (God has visited and redeemed his people); we sing, longing for promises to be fulfilled.

For the past two thousand years, God’s people have waited for Jesus’ return. Every year we

remember his birth and the advent of the good news of his work. As we remember, we also

hunger and long for him to visit his people once again and complete the work of redemption in

our lives and in his created world.

Prayer: Dear Father, help us to be rooted in the salvation history of your people. Help us to find

hope and rest in your mighty works in history. During this season especially, quicken our spirits

to meditate on the birth of Jesus Christ in history, the continued gift and work of the Holy Spirit,

and Jesus’ promised return. Amen.

Advent Hymn: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand; set your minds on things eternal, for with blessing in his hand Christ our God to earth descended, come our homage to command.

King of kings, yet born of Mary, once upon the earth he stood; Lord of lords we now perceive him in the body and the blood. He has given to all the faithful his own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank, the host of heaven stream before him on the way, as the Light of Light, descending from the realms of endless day, comes, the powers of hell to vanquish, clears the gloom of hell away.

At his feet the six-winged seraph, cherubim with sleepless eye veil their faces to his presence, as with ceaseless voice they cry: “Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia, Lord Most High!”

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