December 19, 2016- Do You Believe What God Said? Luke 1:11-24

zechariah_6

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.   He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.  He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.  And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. Luke 1:11-22 (NRSV)

Zechariah is one of the more interesting characters in the story of the Nativity.  He was a high priest in the temple, a man well educated in the Torah and in the Jewish faith.  He knew the story of Moses.  He knew the I AM God. He knew that all things are possible with God.

Yet when Gabriel (the same angel who later appeared to Mary to announce the impending birth of Jesus) came to him with the good news that he was to be the father of John the Baptist, Zechariah doubted that what Gabriel had come to say to him would happen.

Sometimes what we know in our heads is true doesn’t quite make it all the way to our hearts.  We all have those moments of, “I believe what God says is true, but…” The reality of the human condition is that doubt is part of faith.  God wants us to question our faith and to bring our questions to Him.  That’s the reason why God gave us intellect- so that we could seek, knock and ask, and grow closer to Him in our searching.

But Zechariah was a guy who because of both his education and his vocation, should have known that when God’s angel makes a special trip to tell you something that God is going to follow through with that announcement. It is interesting that God decided to literally shut Zechariah up until He made good upon granting him that gift of a son.  It was if God was saying in that action, “I have the final word.”

I have a plaque in my dining room that says, “Lord, keep Your arms around my shoulder,  and Your hand over my mouth.”  Part of the reason I like that short little prayer is because I tend to want to cut off the possibilities before I remember that God is the one in control, not me. In a crisis, I can only see what my narrow focus allows me to see, instead of the complete picture that God sees and of which God is the Author. Sometimes I want to say, “But, God…” or, “How can that happen?”  or, “Why,” without considering that it is the I AM God who is deciding things.

There are many promises God gives to His people throughout Scripture.  Some of those promises have been fulfilled, and some of them are not yet.

But God has the final word.  He hears our prayers, He answers them, and when He speaks, it will happen as He says.  No matter what I might have to say in disbelief or protest.

December 9, 2016- The Reality of the Presence of God-Luke 1:39-45

mary-and-elizabeth

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country,  where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.   When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit  and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?  For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” Luke 1:39-45 (NRSV)

It’s hard to imagine the joy both of these women are celebrating.  Elizabeth had endured years of infertility and had despaired of ever having a child.  Mary had been given the impossible news that not only would she- a virgin- give birth to a child, but also that her child was the very Son of God.

This passage tells us much about Who God is and how He works.

The children- Jesus and John the Baptist- were still in their mothers’ wombs.  They were at the most innocent and vulnerable stage of life, yet the life and the presence of God was made obvious even at this stage of development.  Elizabeth immediately was filled with the Holy Spirit, and the child, John, jumped for joy even though he had not yet been born.  The Presence of God was very much with Jesus even though He, too had not yet been born.  It seems that God comes to us even in the most lowly, helpless and vulnerable among us.

Elizabeth also points out that there is blessing in believing.  Elizabeth had been believing for a very long time.  She probably had plenty of doubts and despair to go along with that belief, but her belief in the reality of God’s promise of a child was made real to her in that moment.  She knew for some time before Mary’s visit that she was going to have a child, but there is a certain reality in that child’s presence, as mothers know, when that child makes him or herself known by kicking and jumping.

How does God make His presence known to us today?  Yes, He is in the fanfare and the majesty and the bigness of this world, but some of His biggest miracles can be found among the least of us and in the smallest places.

So what do we do when we keep believing and we still don’t see what God promises? How do we believe some more?

Two peasant women.  Two unborn babies.  Unimaginable blessings, and yet more evidence of God with us.