5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth; 15 for he will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. 16 And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared."
18 And Zechariah said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years." 19 And the angel answered him, "I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time." 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they wondered at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he could not speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he made signs to them and remained dumb.
23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. 24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she hid herself, saying, 25 "Thus the Lord has done to me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men."
2 And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had no children. 3 And the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, "Behold, you are barren and have no children; but you shall conceive and bear a son. 4 Therefore beware, and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, 5 for lo, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from birth; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines." 6 Then the woman came and told her husband, "A man of God came to me, and his countenance was like the countenance of the angel of God, very terrible; I did not ask him whence he was, and he did not tell me his name; 7 but he said to me, `Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son; so then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from birth to the day of his death.'" 24 And the woman bore a son, and called his name Samson; and the boy grew, and the LORD blessed him. 25 And the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him in Mahanehdan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.
Meditation: Do you believe that God will fulfill all his
promises just as he said? Advent is a time to renew our hope and
confidence in God's faithfulness to the covenant he made with his
people. In preparing the way for a Savior, we see the wondrous
miracle of two barren couples who conceive and bear sons - Samson
in the Old Testament (Judges 13) and John the Baptist in the New
Testament (Luke 1:5ff) - who are called by God to bring hope and
deliverance at a time of spiritual darkness and difficulty for the
people of God.
A blessing beyond expectations
Zechariah was a godly man who was tuned to God's voice. He was born into a priestly family and it was his privilege to be chosen to enter the inner court of the temple to offer sacrifice to God. Luke records that the people wondered at Zechariah's delay and were amazed that he was speechless when he withdrew from the inner sanctuary. They rightly perceived that he had a special encounter with God. God's angelic messenger greeted Zechariah with a blessing beyond his expectations.
"Your prayer is heard! You will have a son! And his mission will be great for all of Israel."
Now that seemed like a lot for Zechariah to take in all at
once. Could God really do a miracle for his barren wife,
Elizabeth? The angel somewhat wisely put Zechariah in his
place before God's mighty action. He became speechless until
the day the infant was dedicated to the Lord and given the name,
John. When God draws us into his presence, he wants us to be still
and quiet before him so we can listen to his voice as he speaks to
our hearts and reveals his mind to us. Do you listen
attentively to the Lord and do you ponder his word in your heart
with trust and confidence?
The Lord is gracious
In the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist, the angel explains to Zechariah the role his son is to play in preparing the way for the Messiah. John will be great in the sight of God. He will live as a Nazarite (see Numbers 6) - a person set apart for the Lord. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even within his mother's womb. And he shall be sent to the people of God, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers and children to God and one another, by turning the "disobedient to the wisdom of the just." The name John means "the Lord is gracious". When God acts to save us he graciously fills us with his Holy Spirit and makes our faith "alive" to his promises. Do you pray that "the hearts of parents and children may be turned to God and one another"?
Psalm 71:3-6, 16-17
3 Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
4 Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.
5 For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.
6 Upon you I have leaned from my birth; you are he who took me from my mother's womb. My praise is continually of you.
16 With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come, I will praise your righteousness, yours alone.
17 O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
Daily Quote from the Early Church Fathers: Born for prophecy - murdered for truth, by Maximus of Turin (died between 408-423 AD)
"I do not know what is the most important thing that we should
preach - that he [John the Baptist] was wonderfully born or more
wonderfully slain - for he was born as a prophecy and murdered for
truth. By his birth he announced the coming of the Savior, and by
his death he condemned the incest of Herod (Matthew 14:3-12). This
holy and righteous man, who was born in an uncommon way as the
result of a promise, merited from God that he should depart this
world by an uncommon death - that he should by confessing the Lord
lay aside his body, which he had received as a gift from the Lord.
Therefore John did everything by the will of God, since he was
born and died for the sake of God's work." (excerpt from SERMON