Luke 1:5-25 (New Revised Standard Version)
5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.
8 Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10 Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16 He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” 19 The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”
21 Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
24 After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25 “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”
Devotional Questions from the ELCA’s Book of Faith Initiative:
What scares, confuses, or challenges me about this Bible reading? What do I have questions about? One thing that I have learned about myself over the years is that it is hard for me to change plans. I identify with Zechariah, because he had resigned himself to being childless, and denied the gift when it was given to him. This Bible reading challenges me to be open to changing my plans, and to spend more time listening when God is trying to speak to me.
What delights me about this Bible reading? What do I like about it? What is the good news here? One thing I love about this Bible reading is that God is acting to bring good things into Zechariah’s life, even over and above his protests. God desires our life, and our happiness, and all good things for us, even when we deny him. How am I denying the good in favor of the bad, just because it is a part of my plan?
What stories or memories does this Bible reading stir up in me? You might remember a time when you were completely surprised, or said “No” to something you wished for, or weren’t able to speak for a length of time, for example. Those of you who know me will not be surprised to learn that the biggest surprise in my life finding out that I was pregnant with twins. It was a blessing beyond expectation, and also one of the most difficult times in my life. I am beyond thankful that God gifted me with a community to surround me in love, even when I was speechless during this time, both in joy and in fear.
What is God up to in this Bible reading? What is God calling you to do or to be because of this? Maybe it’s because we are entering Advent, a season which has always been marked by quiet contemplation for me, but I hear God reminding me to be quiet, to listen, and to believe. Sometimes, in this over-busy, over-scheduled, over-expectation-full world, this is just exactly what we need to hear.
May God bless your work and your rest, your action and your contemplation, during this hoy season of waiting in hope!
In Christ, Pastor Breen