We are now in the season of Advent. The word Advent is from a Latin word, which means “coming.” We are waiting for His coming, but we are not just waiting. We are waiting expectantly. In my childhood, Advent was a special time for our family. Each evening after supper and washing the dishes, our family would regather around the table and share an Advent devotional and pray together. Our family was waiting expectantly. The birth of Jesus came during a time when people were waiting, too. People were being prepared for something big to happen. They were waiting but big things were already happening in the house of some of Mary’s relatives. Let’s drop in on Luke’s account of the story:
The angel reassured him, “Don’t fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John. You’re going to leap like a gazelle for joy, and not only you—many will delight in his birth. He’ll achieve great stature with God.” Zachariah said to the angel, “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.” But the angel said, “I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won’t believe me, you’ll be unable to say a word until the day of your son’s birth. Every word I’ve spoken to you will come true on time—God’s time.” When the course of his priestly assignment was completed, he went back home. It wasn’t long before his wife, Elizabeth, conceived. She went off by herself for five months, relishing her pregnancy. “So, this is how God acts to remedy my unfortunate condition!” she said. (Luke 1:13-14, 18-20, 23-25 The Message)
Zachariah was a priest who served in the Temple. Elizabeth, his wife, was a distant cousin of Mary, who would one day be the mother of Jesus. Zachariah and Elizabeth were a devout couple. Although they had wanted children, they knew they were now far too old. In today’s passage, Zachariah was doing his job on Temple duty when he encountered an angel named Gabriel. I find Gabriel’s greeting rather surprising: “Don’t fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you.” Really? Here was old Zachariah, who was supposed to be doing Temple duty and what was this elderly priest praying for? A son. I love Zachariah's response, especially in this translation, because I can really identify with it. “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.” He wanted to believe God. According to the angel Gabriel, he was praying for a son, but he couldn't believe that God would actually answer his prayer! The Bible says that it wasn't long before Elizabeth conceived. God did His part. Zachariah and Elizabeth did their part, and John the Baptist came into the world to announce the coming of the Messiah.
How about you today? It’s Advent. Are you preparing your heart? Are you waiting expectantly for the Good News of what God will do next in your life?