Jan 14

Rev Gav

Barren

Luke 1:5-7. The story of Liz and Zechariah doesn’t begin with joy but with heartache.

Luke 1:5-7

The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

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.”

18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”

19 Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! 20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long. 22 When he finally did come out, he couldn’t speak to them. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary.

23 When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. 24 Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. 25 “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”

Reflect

Luke began with the story of a married couple called Liz and Zechariah – two ordinary people going about their ordinary lives. At the time, Herod was the Jewish king and he was called ‘Herod the Great’, although he wasn’t considered great by many Jewish people as he was under the control of the occupying Romans. Herod was rebuilding the great temple in Jerusalem, and it was in this temple that priests from the surrounding countryside, such as Zechariah, would take turns to go and work – performing priestly duties.

However, this story of Liz and Zechariah doesn’t start with joy but with heartache. Like many families, this one had its own tragedy. Being unable to have children is terribly difficult for any couple, but back in the religious setting of first century Palestine, it was a major deal. Some people thought it was a sign that you’d been ditched by God, and others would even poke fun at you. Harsh, huh?

In the same way that Liz and Zechariah suffered from heartache, families today  also experience heartache, for example, family breakup, loss or illness. But in the same way that this story starts with Liz and Zechariah, God’s story in the world starts with you. You’re at the cutting edge of God’s work in the world right now.

Do

Today, think of something that has caused or is causing heartache within your own family. Bring some of that heartache to God, and ask God to stand with you and/or other family members in their pain.

Pray

Holy God
Every family goes through difficult things,
and yet your story in the world begins with me.
Help strengthen my relationships with those around me,
that together we might bring;
peace where there’s conflict
reconciliation where there’s division
and comfort where there’s distress.
This day and forever.
Amen.

Think

What’s God (through Luke) communicating to us, by starting his whole book with a family going through such heartache?

Lisa-Dawn Johnston Jan 24 15:29pm

I feel this one personally. I cry over not having children often. And I have always felt like it was a punishment, especially when I watched some parents treat their children with indifference. Was I so unworthy that even they were deemed better candidates for parents than I.
Reading of Elizabeth and Zechariah reminds me that God can do all things… and I wish that he had blessed me with children. I feel lesser as a result.

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