From Luke 1…..(Contemporary English Version)
“When Herod was king of Judea, there was a priest by the name of Zechariah from the priestly group of Abijah. His wife Elizabeth was from the family of Aaron. Both of them were good people and pleased the Lord God by obeying all that he had commanded. But they did not have children. Elizabeth could not have any, and both Zechariah and Elizabeth were already old.
One day Zechariah’s group of priests were on duty, and he was serving God as a priest. According to the customs of the priests, he had been chosen to go into the Lord’s temple that day and to burn incense, while the people stood outside praying.
All at once an angel from the Lord appeared to Zechariah at the right side of the altar. Zechariah was confused and afraid when he saw the angel. But the angel told him:
Don’t be afraid Zechariah! God has heard your prayers. Your wife Elizabeth will have a son and you will name him John. His birth will make you very happy and many people will be glad. Your son will be a great servant of the Lord. He must never drink wine or beer, and the power of the Holy Spirit will be with him from the time he is born.
John will lead many people in Israel to turn back to the Lord their God. He will go ahead do the Lord with the same power and Spirit that Elijah had. And because of John, parents will be more thoughtful of their children. And people who now disobey God will begin to think as they ought to. That is how John will get people ready for the Lord.
Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How will I know this is going to happen? My wife and I are both very old.’
The angel answered ‘I am Gabriel, God’s servant, and I was sent to tell you this good news. You have not believed what I have said. So you will not be able to say a thing until all of this happens. But everything will take place when it is supposed to.’ “(V 5-20)
When everyone else is focused on the birth of Jesus this Christmas, I find myself focused on the birth of another special baby, John, the child of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Zech and Liz (really, they were just normal people like you and me) were at a time in their life when I suspect they thought they had it all pretty much figured out. A good life, a simple life, a life of quiet purpose and routine. Obedient to what they saw as God’s path for them. Then this angel comes along smack dab in the middle of all of that, and they find out their life is about to change!
I can’t imagine what it must have been like for them. Reconciled to a quiet life without children of their own, they are told that their status is a-changing. Not only that, they are going to have to raise a kid who’s not quite “normal”. One who comes with some special handling required. A child who had a purpose even before he was conceived. One they will have to keep from ever drinking beer or wine, for goodness’ sake! Doesn’t God realize they are too tired for all of this? No wonder Zechariah finds himself struck dumb for a while!
I’ve been going through one of those times lately when I have felt blessed NOT to be a parent. It’s a scary thing. I think all kids come with the same instructions as John, and yeah….for those of you that are parents you have a tremendous job that remains as long as both you and that child is on this earth. Your responsibility is to be to be teaching and encouraging and preparing them for their life’s purpose every day…but it is also releasing them to their own purpose from day one. They are on one hand your responsibility, but on the other hand they do not belong to you at all. They belong to God. They were created to be themselves. You, however, were especially chosen to be their parent.
But I also think of my own responsibilities to the Johns of the world. Who can identify the special ones? Do we all come with the same sort of warranty? Not having children does not take me off the hook. It’s still my job to teach and encourage. Angels can still come to me at any time to prod me towards a job or responsibility I feel totally unprepared for. Maybe my job is to light the incense to create the environment that will make others breathe in the breathe of God more deeply, but maybe, even at this time of life (when coasting through seems pretty appealing), more is expected of me.
It has made me think. Will I pay attention when God wants to shake my life up, or will I go on doing my comfortable routine (which looks way more respectable to those on the outside) and ignore the angel? Will I listen to the angel, but argue about it and think I have a better idea of God’s plan? Will I really stop and smell the incense or just continue to let it burn in the background so the senses of others are aroused?
When we find ourselves in our comfort zone, God’s probably not going to be able to do his best work. How much can we really lean on him there? If instead we approach life as a free fall, and God as the one who gives us the thumbs up as to when to jump, how exhilarating can our life be?
I write a lot about living a purposeful life because I have a really short attention span and I constantly have to remind myself. I’m easily distracted. But I want to be willing to be struck dumb like Zechariah. I want God to use me in a way I would never expect. And I want to hear the voices of angels when they speak to me and believe them, and not listen to them like they are Charlie Brown’s teacher. When God sends me a message about a mission, I want to be ready, willing and able to say (once the shock passes) “Here I am, all ready to go.”
You’re never too old or too young to be used by God. You’re never inadequate. He sees your limitations as assets. You just need to say “Well OK….I guess I’ll do it.” Don’t even bother to fasten your seat belt. The ride is beginning and it just may render you speechless. But possibly like John, it will make parents more thoughtful of their children and people think right. Now wouldn’t that be something?!
Look at those kids of yours a bit closer today, regardless of their age. God has given them a purpose… are you encouraging them to live that, discouraging it, ignoring it, or putting up road blocks? Don’t forget to pray and watch…God has given you a special seat in their lives for a reason.
Children or not, may God’s angel speak to you, and may you be open to listening and ready to do whatever hysterical thing is asked. Because God has a definite sense of humor. It may be a baby for the old barren folks, or something equally as absurd. Go with it!
Make this a very special Christmas Eve. Be the gift!