Scripture Reading: Luke 1:8-23 (HCSB)
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.
Men have never had much success winning a quarrel with the angels. It got Jacob a dislocated hip and Zechariah was struck dumb. In response to Gabriel’s incredible speech about a son that will be born to him, a son who will be great before the Lord, and will bring joy and gladness to many souls, Zechariah, a man that served God with his whole life, finds a quick word of disbelief falling easily from his lips.
Zechariah’s mind should have been cast back to the faithful women of the Old Testament who gave birth when they were “advanced in years” because of the goodness of the Lord. Instead he is struck dumb and exits the temple waving his arms like a fool. His wife Elizabeth (as we read a few verses later), has a godly response to the work of the Lord on her behalf.
God wants us to know that even those in the inner circle of God’s miraculous work were confounded by their own sin and lack of faith from hearing the “good news.” God is a patient Father and a long-suffering Teacher in regard to his message sinking into our hearts and minds. Think about the places and reasons you find it difficult to believe God.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, the news that you bring to us in the story of Jesus is hard to hear; it is beyond our full understanding. Give us faith to grasp the will of heaven and joy to live in the work of the Spirit.
Advent Singing: "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent"
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, Lord Most High!”