Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The about to break!

Luke 1:78-79
Because of God's tender mercy, the light from heaven is about to break upon us,
To give light to those who sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death
and to guide us to the path of peace.

This verse struck me as I came across it this morning.  I have read Luke 1  before.  It's the story of  Zechariah. a priest in the time of Herod the king of Judea.  He and his wife, Elizabeth, are good people, in fact the Bible says they 'were righteous in God's eyes'. Who wouldn't want God to say that about them?  But they had no kids and now they are both very old.

Then one day, Zechariah is on duty at the Temple and he is chosen to be the one to enter the sanctuary and burn incense while the people prayed outside.

That's where it happened!
An angel of the Lord shows up!

Zechariah is overwhelmed, you can imagine!  But the angel says, "Don't be afraid Zech! God has heard you praying and you will have a son. Name him John! "

The angel tells Zech incredible things about  his son, that he will be a man of spirit and power and accomplish great things.

Zechariah's response is to ask a question, "How can I be sure this will happen?  I'm an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years."

The angel gets ticked!  At least I think he's ticked.  He says, "I am Gabriel!  I stand in the presence of God.  He sent me to tell you this good news.  But since you didn't believe  me- you won't be able to speak until your child is born."

And he didn't! Not a word!

Right after that story is when Gabriel shows up to talk to a young girl named Mary.  Again Gabriel says, "Don't be afraid! "  (I wonder how many times Gabriel has said that in his angel life.)

Gabriel tells Mary "you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son. Name him Jesus!"  Again he tells Mary that her son will be very great and that he will be given the throne and will reign forever.

Mary's response is to ask a question, " But how can this happen. I am a virgin."

But Gabriel doesn't seem to get upset with Mary.  He doesn't take her voice away like he did with Zechariah.  He seems more gentle, more patient.

And he tells her, "the Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What's more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age.  People used to say she was barren, but she's now in her sixth month.  For nothing is impossible with God."

It was like I reading this chapter for the first time.  Seeing similarities in the passages I had not seen before.  And yet the differences astound me.

Why did Gabriel react to Zechariah's question as he did and yet not treat Mary that same way when she questioned.  Was it in what they insinuated in the question?  Was it in their tone of voice- which of course we can't hear.  Hmm?  I may have to study that a bit more.

But the other thing I noticed is that, unlike Zechariah,  Mary was able to respond to Gabriel's message right away.  And in amazing faith, she says, "I am the Lord's servant.  May everything you have said about me come true."

I can't say for sure- but I wonder if I had just encountered an angel that's telling me not to be afraid and he tells me that I'm going to be an unmarried pregnant virgin that I would say, "Yeah, I hope it all comes true."

And a few days later, her response swells to an incredibly beautiful song recorded as the  Magnificat. 

Zechariah, in the meantime, is completely silent.  Silence that has been forced on him because he refused to accept the angel's word as coming from God.  Until the day his new baby turned 8 days old.  As these new parents take their son to be circumcised,  everyone is asking what the child's name will be.   Elizabeth states that it will be John. No one believes her because there's no one in the family named John.   So they start 'making gestures' to Zech (not sure why, he was mute, not deaf), anyway, they ask Zechariah what the baby's name should be.  Zechariah writes on a tablet.  HIS NAME IS JOHN.  Immediately he is able to speak again.

That's when Zechariah breaks out into a song of his own.   A song he could sing with great emotion, and deep gratitude for the gift of this child.  A hymn of praise to the Most High God. 

At the end of his song, he sings these words.
Because of God's tender mercy, the light from heaven is about to break upon us,
To give light to those who sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death
and to guide us to the path of peace. Luke 1:78-79

Ah Lord God, let your light break upon us, give light to those who only see darkness this advent season.  To  all who sit in the shadow of death, guide us to peace!  

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