Women of Christmas Devotional #2

by Kathy

Women of Christmas Pic

 

As the story in Luke 1 continues to be told, we hear of a very special day for Zechariah.  He was chosen by lot to enter into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.   It was his turn to minister before the golden alter – in the Holiest of places – spreading the incense over the coals –  probably for the very first time in his life.  There were well over 20,000 priests in 24 divisions.  Each division would be able to choose only 2 priests each year to carry on this task and they would serve in this position for one week.

Stop for just a moment and consider how excited Zechariah must have felt knowing that he could fulfill this very honoring service for the Lord.  Little did he know that God was setting the stage to intervene and make the impossible possible.  Don’t you love this?!!  In her book, Liz Curtis Higgs says this, “Christmas is all about miracles.  The first one is ready to unfold.”

I’m sure that Elizabeth was just as excited for her husband.  How proud she must have felt.  I picture her in the crowd of worshippers waiting for the cloud of fragrance to rise from the alter and be seen from those outside.

As Zechariah finished his duties in the Holy Place and he prepared to leave, the angel Gabriel suddenly appeared and stood to the right of the alter. The personal visit from an angel of God was a distinction that occurred to only a few people in the history of the human race.  In fact, it had been more than 400 years since God had last spoken a fresh word to His people.  As you might imagine, Zechariah was afraid, but the angel offered words of comfort – “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.  He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth.”  The angel went on to tell Zechariah that their son would be the forerunner of the Messiah predicted by the Prophet Malachi in Malachi 3:1 and 4:5 & 6, scripture that Zechariah and Elizabeth were sure to be familiar with.

Can you imagine how Zechariah must have felt hearing this astonishing news.  He had prayed so long for a child.  It seems as though he didn’t take time to gather his thoughts, or even think about the story of Abraham and Sarah, another story he would have been familiar with – where God opens the womb of another older woman.  The shock of it all led Zechariah to blurt out – “How can I be sure of this?  I am an old man and my wife is well along in years”.

Even though Zechariah had devoted his life to serving and knowing an all powerful God…even though God had proved over and over in the history of Israel that nothing is too hard for Him…even though this angel had been sent by God to proclaim this announcement…Zechariah’s question showed a heart of doubting God’s ability.  Because of this doubt, the angel caused Zechariah to be unable to speak another word until the birth of his son.

Meanwhile, while all this is going on, the worshippers outside the temple were beginning to wonder what was taking Zechariah so long inside the temple.   When he did come out, he could not speak so he attempted to communicate through signs and hand gestures, causing the people to think he had seen a vision.  Talk about a game of charades!!  I wonder if this encounter with the angel Gabriel left Zechariah with a new awareness of God’s greatness, a new sense of his own unworthiness, and a strong and vibrant faith.

After completing his service in the temple that week, Zechariah goes home with Elizabeth and they conceive a baby.  A very special baby that would be the one proclaiming the coming of the Messiah.  (We’ll pick up the story here in our next devotional)

Let’s pause for heart application:

As I read this portion of scripture and considered Zechariah’s doubting faith, I had to say honestly….me too sometimes!  As I thought about this, God reminded me of something so precious…a truth to cherish…God’s promises are bigger than our responses, good or bad!  As you read on in the story, baby John was born.  The promise of God was fulfilled, and not just about this baby’s birth, but everything God had purposed for him.  He would go before the Lord, proclaiming the coming of the Messiah.  He was filled with the Spirit of God and brought many people back to God.

God’s grace is bigger than our failures. Oh, how this should cause our hearts to be thankful and full of praise!!

How many times have we doubted God’s promises?

How many times have we fallen short of God’s standards?

How many times have we chosen our way rather God’s way?

How many times have we known God’s command but failed to carry it out?

“Innumerable times” is the answer to these questions.  But still God loves us, and still God uses us, and still God promises us a place in his glory. God’s grace truly is bigger than our failures.

 

How has God spoke to you today?  Spend some time talking to Him in prayer about it.  What actions do you need to take to be obedient to His leading today?

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