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In the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah; his wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years.

Once when he was serving as priest in his division’s turn before God, according to the practice of the priestly service, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense. Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside at the hour of the incense offering, the angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense. Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.”

Then Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel said to him in reply, “I am Gabriel, who stand before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.” Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He was gesturing to them but remained mute.

Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home.

After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months, saying, “So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others.”

REFLECTION: "But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard.”

The feast of the tabernacles, or the feast of booths, was celebrated by the Jewish people with great joy and thanksgiving. It was one of the three festivals the Jewish were required to make as a pilgrimage to the temple. The faithful journeyed far and wide in the fall, praying the psalms the whole way up the mountain to Jerusalem. While staying there for seven days, the Jewish built a temporary structure to commemorate the forty years of wandering in the desert. They were to use their temporary shelter for seven days, enjoying their family and friends. They thanked God for their harvest and offered food for sacrifice and rejoiced in God leading them from bondage. The summit of their worship was to receive a blessing from the priest as he finished praying in the sanctuary.

The priest was chosen each time by lot for the great honor to pray before the holy of holies. Here was Zechariah, an old priest, with one more chance to pray before the sanctuary and bless God’s chosen people. All of the faithful were gathered to pray while the priest entered the sanctuary. They were waiting for the priest to come out and bless them. What a surprise it must have been to witness Zechariah without a voice and not receive his blessing!

One might feel sorry for Zechariah using a common-sense conclusion to the angel Gabriel’s news. However, when God spoke, Zechariah was expected to listen and believe, no matter the circumstance. Are we ready to listen for God’s blessings on us this Christmas season?

As Elizabeth has stated, the events of our lives happen in God’s time and He can “take away my (our) disgrace before others”. Christmas is just a few days away and our lives have changed in so many unexpected ways this year. Let us look back and see how our loving God has blessed us with the unexpected. And, that we should not be afraid, because God has heard our prayers.


PAPA Foundation
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