At my church growing up, we celebrated Advent.
I miss it sometimes. The countdown of the weeks until Christmas with the traditional Scripture readings. The prayers led by families holding hands. And the candles. I always associate Christmas and Advent with candles.
My church now doesn’t observe Advent, but I decided to prepare myself for Christmas more intentionally this year by reflecting on Jesus’ coming. And share my reflections with all of you.
So welcome to my Advent Series! Each post will briefly reflect on one aspect of Jesus’ coming, one slice of the story. To start, we’ll look at faith in the life of Zechariah.
Zechariah: Father of the Baptizer
Reading Luke 1 this week, Zechariah stuck out to me the most from the narrative. John the Baptist’s father. The guy who got struck mute by the angel Gabriel for questioning what he told him.
I tend to forget that he was a priest. A direct descendent of Aaron. Probably highly respected in his community. A faithful and upright Jew. I usually associate him with his lack of faith. Why would you be dumb enough to question an angel? I flippantly ask him as I read.
But this time around, I empathized with Zechariah.
Zechariah had faith, but also lacked it.
He had enough faith to serve God faithfully, but he didn’t have the faith to take an angel at his word when he was given a crazy promise amidst a crazy divine encounter.
How often do we fall into the same kind of faith?
We have the faith to keep doing what we’ve always done, to follow religious rituals and fulfill our duties, but when God breaks through the routine and tells us something crazy, promises us something God-sized, do we believe Him?
For his lack of faith, Zechariah was disciplined.
Struck mute for 10 months. Speech finally returned when he insisted that his son bear the name the angel had told him.
I used to see Zechariah’s muteness as punishment. That’s what happens when you anger an angel.. But now, I see it not as punishment, but discipline. Discipline is for our good. Discipline is how loving parents treat their children. And this muteness was for Zechariah’s good.
The promise was not retracted. The favor remained. The only thing taken from Zechariah was his ability to get in his own way.
Zechariah learned a lot during those ten months.
I know that because of what happened when his tongue was finally loosened: He immediately began prophesying with great boldness. He declared with precision who his son was and what was to come to Israel. No longer was he doubtful or hesitant; he was full of clarity and authority.
He was ready to be the father he needed to be.
“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins.”
– Luke 1:76-77 (Zechariah prophesying over baby John)
Have you experienced discipline from God lately? The stripping away of strength or ability? Being passed over for something you wanted? A firm no from your heavenly Father?
How are you responding? Are you receiving the discipline as God’s love for you? Are you learning what you are supposed to? Are you learning faith, as Zechariah did?
Faith in the One who is Faithful
Judging from Zechariah’s response, he had stopped praying this prayer a long time ago.
“How can I be sure of this?” he asks. “I’m really old and so is my wife.” He thought the opportunity had passed. He had let go of this particular desire and hope. He had lost faith for it.
But when we are faithless, God proves faithful.
He comes to rescue the lost, to heal the hurting, and to restore the broken. That is the God who came to us, many years ago. And it’s the God who is coming again, to make all things right. Praise and honor be to His name.
This is part 1 of the Advent Series, The Coming. Continue on to Part 2: Hope.
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