It seems to me that the Christmas holiday presents a great temptation to forget Christmas. You are enticed to be either cynical about the chaos, involved in a material race against the 25th or disdainful of it all. The real temptation is to overlook the Savior’s birth or reduce it to some sentimental glance at the nativity scene. This season can be a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus in the presence of God alone with intimate worship for such an amazing event!
So every year I ask my Father to give me a fresh view of this familiar story. Can we ever really know it? Let me come as a child and discover in a new way, the wonder that the Son of God was born one day in time, a mere human baby.
Zacharias in the Temple (Reading Luke 1)
The birth of Jesus into human lowness was an unparalleled drama, an interruption in the course of human history. The characters on the stage of that living drama, in all their humanness, are pictures of us all. And God’s dealings with them are lessons to this day, revealing Him like a frame around the scene of Jesus’ birth.
Luke wrote a skilled account, one in which he “investigated everything carefully from the beginning to write it out for you in consecutive order…” This account is accurate and detailed to give us the high points as God saw them, the Holy Spirit leading Luke to lay it down for centuries of readers.
Two central characters emerge around Christ’s birth: Mary and Zacharias. Angels visited them both with the announcement of amazing births. And according to their hearts – exposed by their reactions – the angel of the Lord dealt with them. Mary and Zacharias are principal players on this living stage, placed side by side, back and forth in the story.
Zacharias was chosen by lot to burn incense in the Holy Place, before the veil of the Most Holy. This ceremony came to a priest only once in his lifetime, and it is written that “a whole multitude of people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering.”
Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared, standing to the right of the incense altar, facing the terrified priest. “The angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John.’”
The angel promised joy and gladness through this child and that he would be great in the sight of the Lord, filled with the Holy Spirit even from before birth. Wonderful promises of this child’s ministry were given, the very ministry of Elijah, turning the hearts of the people back to God. Glorious things, spoken and promised.
“Zacharias had a question: ‘How will I know this for certain? I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.’” The heart of Zacharias was, “I see only the obstacle…you have to convince me. Make me believe. Prove it to me. Satisfy me.” His question? One of doubt, distrust, even unbelief! The man was old in cynicism, weary in his prayer for a child and despairing of its answer.
Understandable, I say.
God says, inexcusable.
We are only old who tire of waiting, who lose our child-wonder, begin to die to hope and cease to live young in the expectancy of God’s surprises with certainty that He hears our dreams by prayer. Not so the old Abraham, who the longer he waited and the older he was, the more he hoped. Zacharias believed that his weakness was God’s impossibility, while Abraham saw his impossibility as God’s opportunity.
Copyright © 2002 Martha Kilpatrick