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Advent Readings: Day 16

For this Advent season we offer you a Bible reading for each day which points to the first coming of the Lord Jesus at Christmas and his return in glory!

Luke 1:5 - 25

5In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. 7But they had no children because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well on in years.

8Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

11Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. 16Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.”

21Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realised he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

23When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25“The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favour and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

A few comments

Throughout the story of the OT there has been a pattern of God acting in unexpected ways, and using surprising people. In particular, he chooses to work through younger sons (Jacob, Perez, David, etc) and through childless couples. Here he does it again. Just a hint that the central story of the Bible is moving forward – after 400 years of silence God will now act to fulfil his promise to send a redeemer (just as there were 400 years of slavery in Egypt before redemption under Moses).

How interesting, too, that the angel says Zechariah and Elizabeth’s miracle baby will ‘go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah.’ What is the very final verse in the Old Testament? The last word that God spoke through the prophets before the long silence:

See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before the great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children…’ Micah 4:5

Their child, John the Baptist will be the trumpet blast who announces the arrival of the Lord God himself!

Point for Prayer

Praise God for the way that he shows his mighty power by accomplishing his plans through the most unlikely of people and most unpromising of situations.