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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, December 4, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 1:5–13

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years. Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. (NRSV)

Some of us live a dim life, and we don’t even know it. We work hard, play hard, volunteer, love our families, and participate in our faith communities. But we don’t actually believe in the coming of a radical and new world. We say and pray and sing that we are marching in the light of God, but we are satisfied to live in the dusk.

Zechariah was a righteous and respected man, a religious leader who was allowed to enter the temple and burn incense. But he was terrified to see the angel Gabriel. He met the happiest news of his life with disbelief. Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Gabriel struck him dumb until John was born and named.

Zechariah was struck dumb because he couldn’t believe. He couldn’t believe in the first glimmer of the light of the world—the coming birth of a baby who would grow up to be John the Baptist, who would prepare the way for the Messiah.

If a priest burning incense in the temple cannot believe the good news when told in person by an angel of the Lord, what hope do the rest of us have?

Our hope may rest in deliberately preparing ourselves for the coming of Christ. As December darkness closes in, we rush and celebrate, surrounded by images of angels. Let us also be quiet and loving, so that if an angel speaks to us, we will hear and believe.

Creator God, open my heart and my eyes. Help me joyously hear your good news and prepare the way of the Lord. Thy kingdom come. Amen.

Written by Gretchen Wahl, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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