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Gospel Reading for December 19, 2023 – Luke 1: 5-25
MANY MORE SURPRISES
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. And yet they had no child, because Elizabeth was infertile, and they were both advanced in years.
Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. Now an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zechariah was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him.
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 name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice over his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. And it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers back to their children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in her years.” The angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”
And meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple, and he repeatedly made signs to them, and remained speechless.
When the days of his priestly service were concluded, he went back home.
Now after these days his wife Elizabeth became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among people.”
During biblical times, it was deeply shameful for a woman to be infertile or barren. Some Jews even interpret it to be a curse or punishment for a sin the woman may have committed. It was regarded as solely a woman’s problem, hence was a valid reason for divorce. And as described in this reading, Zechariah was indeed an upright man not to have divorced Elizabeth because of this. The only shortcoming of Zechariah was that he failed to believe that with God, everything and anything is possible.
Here, we see the wonder of God’s works. He immensely surprises those who follow his ways and rewards them with great deeds. Imagine, choosing the parents of the great prophet John the Baptist, to be those advanced in age, with the mother barren? He did not just take away the disgrace of Elizabeth for being barren, but he rewarded them with a son who would be the GREATEST PRECURSOR of the Saviour.
This should serve as an inspiration for those of us who have given up on something we have been asking the Lord to grant us. Let us never forget that God knows best. WE ARE IN FOR MANY MORE SURPRISES!
Lord God, we truly believe that you can do anything and everything!