Reading: Luke 1:5-25
In the days of Herod, King of Judea,
there was a priest named Zechariah
of the priestly division of Abijah;
his wife was from the daughters of Aaron,
and her name was Elizabeth.
Both were righteous in the eyes of God,
observing all the commandments
and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.
But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren
and both were advanced in years.
Once when he was serving as priest
in his division’s turn before God,
according to the practice of the priestly service,
he was chosen by lot
to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense.
Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside
at the hour of the incense offering,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him,
standing at the right of the altar of incense.
Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah,
because your prayer has been heard.
Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,
and you shall name him John.
And you will have joy and gladness,
and many will rejoice at his birth,
for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.
He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.
He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb,
and he will turn many of the children of Israel
to the Lord their God.
He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah
to turn the hearts of fathers toward children
and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous,
to prepare a people fit for the Lord.”
Then Zechariah said to the angel,
“How shall I know this?
For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”
And the angel said to him in reply,
“I am Gabriel, who stand before God.
I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news.
But now you will be speechless and unable to talk
until the day these things take place,
because you did not believe my words,
which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”
Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah
and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary.
But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them,
and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary.
He was gesturing to them but remained mute.
Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home.
After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived,
and she went into seclusion for five months, saying,
“So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit
to take away my disgrace before others.”
O Root of Jesse’s stem,
sign of God’s love for all people:
come to save us without delay!
The days of Advent in this calendar year drawer nearer and nearer their end. We cry from our woundedness for that sign of God’s love to come into our midst. Are we ready to recognize and embrace this sign of love when it appears?
In today’s gospel, LK 1:5-25, we are challenged to both be patient for and awake to the unexpected outpouring of God. Zechariah is a patient, dutiful man. Gabriel comes as the voice of God to announce the most unlikely pregnancy of his wife, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth is a unique partner in the story of salvation by this pregnancy. She is also freed from the shame of being barren throughout her long life.
What does all of this really say to us? Consider what the unexpected brought to this aging couple? A “high risk” pregnancy, the excitement of a child and the concomitant change in lifestyle, Elizabeth is released from the shame she bore as a barren woman, and Zechariah is silenced. It is quite a mixed bag.
In the end, God has made known the answer to the prayers of this couple, in God’s own time. When it was right, God took action.
The twist in this story is the silencing of Zechariah. Zechariah asked for a sign. As a result of his weak faith, it seems God gave him as sing and some time to reflect upon the magnitude of this great event
Today we join the chorus of Christians through the centuries singing, “O Root of Jesse…” Are we ready to patiently wait for God to action. Will we recognize the gift of God’s love when it appears? Can we say yes? Are we one who needs a sign? Of equal importance in our openness to accept this gift God sends in our midst. Are we ready to be healed and saved?
– Owen Borda
As you move through your day’s activity, take note of the times the love of God is made present in your life. I mean, actually write the events down. Reflect on the magnitude of this gift and the many signs that made this love manifest.