Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the time of year when the Christian church celebrates the coming of Jesus Christ. We remember the birth of Jesus 2000+ years ago. We celebrate Jesus’ presence with the church now by His Spirit. We look forward to Jesus’ promised return as King. Many find it refreshing and faith-building to look again at the events around the birth of Jesus.
Christmas can be such a busy time of the year. Celebrating Advent can help us to focus on the One at the centre of the story, God’s gift to the world. Every day we’ll be posting bible verses related to Christmas, along with some thoughts to consider. Have a great Advent and Christmas!
5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah,[a] of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 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, he was chosen 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 has been 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 must not drink wine or 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 children 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.”
Despite walking blamelessly before God, Zecariah and Elizabeth haven’t been able to have children. Barrenness is hard for any couple to live with; for those in the Middle East in the 1st Century (and today) it was a cause for grief and shame. Zecariah would have no heir to continue the family name. Elizabeth would have no son or daughter to care for her in old age. The community would assume that God was displeased with Zecariah and Elizabeth.
But God has a history of blessing barren couples and giving them central roles in His story. The father of the Jewish people was Abraham, whose wife Sarah was barren. God blessed Abraham and Sarah with a son. God gave Hannah a son after years of barrenness. The child was Samuel, Israel’s great prophet and priest.
Luke’s account of the Christmas story starts with good news about the birth of a baby boy. That boy would prepare God’s people for the arrival of the promised Saviour, Jesus. The birth of John the baptist shows that God loves to use the most unlikely characters in His story. Zecariah and Elizabeth thought their time was past. Against hope God chose to bless them with a son.