Monday, December 19, 2011
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children 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 the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.” Luke 1:1-25
Yesterday was the last Sunday of Advent and we went to church and thoroughly enjoyed the Christmas Pageant. I never tire of watching children tell the story, as they wiggle and lose their places, they somehow make God incarnate all that much more real. In the afternoon, we helped my Mom decorate her tree. She hasn't had a real tree in several years, so we all enjoyed pulling out the old ornaments, and sharing stories of past Christmases, the origin of some of the handmade ornaments and many laughs as we decorated together. It was hard to believe all the many years we have shared together, and some of the ornaments came from my grandmother's home, so that had seen more Christmases than even my mother has at 88. The blessings of life are amazing and unbelievable at times, and as we recounted our funny memories, we also were counting our many blessings as well.
We hear the beginning of Luke's Gospel and the extraordinary and unbelievable story he had to tell. We begin with the tale of Zechariah and Elizabeth, of angel visits and the impossible coming true. We also glimpse the real humanity of the story as Zechariah hears unbelievable news from an unbelievable source and struggles to understand. And in all of this fragile humanity we hear that, not only are two old people going to have a child, but that this child would, "turn many of the children 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 the parents to their children." God promises us through this story today that despite how beyond repair life, relationship and our world might seem, God is actively in the midst of our broken humanity and working for the reconciliation of all.
Today I ask God to help me be an instrument of reconciliation and to trust that the impossible and the unbelievable are possible with God. May our words and actions today bring a new sense of promise and hopefulness to the people around us. May we, like John, be comfort to our elders, shelter for the weak and faith for those who have lost their way. May God's light shine through us this day, so that the whole world might know that God is working to heal our broken world, mend our broken hearts and make the impossible possible in our time.