Advent Journeys – 1

After a break since September I am planning an Advent Blog Series looking at the Advent accounts through the lives of people who travelled or were travelled to by others. It is my intention to do this twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays but crave your indulgence if I get out of step and do not stick exactly to my stated brief.

Thank you. Andrew

In the opening chapters of the Gospels, and in Matthew and Luke in particular, there is much coming and going in preparation for the birth of the Saviour and we will follow some of the people involved in these Advent Journeys.

  1. Zechariah – Luke 1.5-25

Twice a year  Zechariah, who was a priest from the tribe of Levi travelled with his fellow priests from the Abijah Division, to the Temple in Jerusalem for his spell of duty, and on this occasion was selected by lot to burn incense – something which possibly happened only once in a lifetime of service. So v.10 when ‘the time for the burning of incense came’ he would have been in a particularly heightened sense of anticipation but this was trumped as he was confronted by ‘an angel of the Lord’ who had travelled from God’s right hand, namely Gabriel, one of only two named angels. This ‘visitation’ caused Zechariah to be ‘gripped with fear’ for such a heavenly messenger was very far removed from Nativity Play angels!

But note the message ‘Do not be afraid, your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you are to give him the name John.’

The characteristics of this child (vs.14-17) were wonderful indeed and together with such an unlikely answer to his (unrecorded) prayer brought the response ‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well on in years.’

Note the answer! ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God and I have been sent to speak to you and tell you this good news.’

What an encounter! Far surpassing the priestly privilege of burning incense. But it was too big for Zechariah to process resulting in a period of nine months in which he would be dumb because of his unbelief v.20.

His inability to speak on emerging from his priestly task caused the waiting worshippers to understand that he had seen a vision but no doubt found great difficulty in interpreting his attempts at sign language and so had to wait till the child was born.

As we enter this Advent period it might be salutary for us to ask ourselves if we respond to God in the way that Zechariah did. He prayed and was it seems unprepared for the answer. Then when the answer came he failed to believe in spite of the declaration of the one who had come from the very presence of God himself.

Do we take God at his word, found in the pages of scripture,  and from the lips of the one who came and lived among us. The one, who as we shall remind ourselves in this short series, did not just come from standing in the presence of God but was God himself.

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