First Saturday in Advent

First Saturday in Advent   JOHN   ZECH & ANGEL,Abijah  7

Scripture: Luke 1:5-17

When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.

One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10 While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.

11 While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. 13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”

Some thoughts:

     Friends, there is such richness I that first paragraph. Our tendency is to read the words and move on. It pays to linger and ponder why Luke included each phrase that is there. When Herod was king of Judea (37-4 BC) put Luke’s account in time, in other words, this is an actual event in history. Of course, Christians believe this but not everyone does. It is history that requires a response. Now, to the text.

     Not anyone could become a priest. One didn’t audition or send in a résumé for the job. It was required to be born into the right family . . . the tribe of Levi and specifically, the family line of Aaron. (That is one of the reasons genealogies are so important in the Bible and why the scribes took such great care in recording them.) Both Aaron and Moses were of the tribe of Levi. Aaron was God’s chosen priest and established the protocol for priestly duties. If we look in I Chronicles 24:10 we find that Abijah, mentioned here in Luke, was a descendant of Eleazer, one of the two remaining sons of Aaron. (Nadab and Abihu offered unholy fire and died.) Abijah was chosen as the eighth of the twenty-four lots. Move forward 1,000 years. Now it was the eighth lot’s turn to serve in the Temple and Zechariah was chosen by lot to be the one to serve from his division. The privilege to serve may come but once in a priest’s lifetime and so it was a great honor to be chosen. When Zechariah’s name was drawn there was much excitement for the old couple and my guess is many of his friends were waiting outside for him to finish his duties to find out what it was like. When he was delayed in coming out, they figured something was amiss. Perhaps the excitement was too much, and he died! God’s hand was at work all the way back to the First Testament!

     Why such care with details? God chose to work through the priestly line to raise the prophet who would announce the coming of the Messiah, the Anointed One. As it turns out both Zechariah and Elizabeth were from the priestly line of Aaron. As a result, their marriage was viewed with even greater distinction further magnifying the social stigma of being childless. Have you noticed barrenness in childbearing is a recurring theme of Scripture? Sarah-Isaac, Rebecca-Jacob, Rachel-Joseph, the unnamed mother of Samson, Hannah-Samuel, and Elizabeth and John. In every case the resulting sons born to the women were used by God in significant ways in the unfolding of God’s plan for his people.

     The appearance of the angel in the Temple was unsettling to say the least, but his message was clear. Zechariah and Elizabeth were to become parents of the forerunner of the Messiah. The Scripture tells us that John was filled with the Holy Spirit while still in utero. Our wonderful God worked through an ordinary occurrence, even rolling the dice to select a person for a specific task (!), and accomplished his will in a remarkable, priestly, and miraculous way. All the details were in perfect order from centuries earlier. A prophet miraculously conceived from the priestly line, was to announce the coming of the King, One who was the Prophet foretold by Moses the Levite (Deut 18:18) proclaiming the gospel to the world, and the High Priest who lives to continually intercede on behalf of his children was the coming King. God’s hand is on all his children. Look today for God’s hand in the ordinary things of your life. They may become extraordinary in the future! God is the master orchestrator of life and time. After all, God’s word says, “You are a chosen people . . . royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession.” Follower of Jesus, that’s you, a royal priest.

Music: “Every Valley Shall Be Exalted” Kurt Streit


Almighty Lord our God, as your royal priests on earth, direct our steps into the way of peace, and strengthen our hearts to obey Thy commands; may the Dayspring visit us from on high, and help us to shine the light of your gospel to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death; so  that they may adore Thee for Thy mercy, follow thee for Thy truth, desire Thee for thy sweetness, who art the blessed Lord God of Israel. Amen. – An Ancient Collect, adapted Daniel Sharp

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