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This is the 18th in a series of daily Advent reflections based on the appointed daily readings. To see the other posts in this series click on the Advent Reflections link above, or in the right-hand sidebar under categories.
The theme is waiting with hope.
The first photograph is the great clock in the old railway station that is now the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Time is relative.
Today’s reading is Luke 1:5-25 click on the link to read the text on Oremus Bible Browser.
Luke starts his “orderly account” of the Gospel, with the miracle of Zechariah and Elizabeth conceiving a son – John the Baptist. It’s a wonderful story with echoes of Abraham and Sarah. Zachariah and Elizabeth (Mary’s cousin) are a devout couple who haven’t been able to have children. Now late in their lives, past Elizabeth’s childbearing age, the Angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah to tell him that his prayer has been answered. He and Elizabeth will have a child, a boy. The boy is to be called John and will be dedicated to serving God. Zechariah, like Abraham before him, finds it difficult to believe. He asks Gabriel for some kind of proof. Gabriel is not at all pleased to be doubted and tells Zechariah he will not be able to speak until the boy has been born and named.
All of this took place in the Holy of Holies. Zechariah served as a priest in the temple and after many years of service he had finally been chosen (by lot) to be the one to offer the incense. This was a great honour. The people gathered outside were waiting expectantly for him to come back out. Zechariah took much longer than was customary, and when finally he came out he was unable to speak. The crowd soon realized he had seen a vision in this most holy of places.
This is a story of waiting and of long years of disappointment. How many years had this godly couple longed for children, only to be disappointed? In those days children, especially male children, were seen as a sign of God’s blessing, a recognition of a person’s righteousness. Elizabeth was ashamed that she could not conceive. It was also believed that it was the ‘fault’ of the woman if she did not become pregnant.
Zechariah had served for years as a priest. Twice each year his team would be chosen to provide temple service. Each time one of the men would be chosen through casting lots to serve as high priest. Only the high priest was allowed to enter into the holy of holies, the place where traditionally the Ark of the Covenant had been kept. It was where God resided on earth. Time after time Zechariah had been hoping it would be his turn to have this honour. He must have been wondering if he would live long enough to be chosen for this holy task.
Then, when the couple had given up hope of a child, and Zechariah was thinking he might never be chosen, both dreams were realized.
For people of faith there is always hope. Perhaps our dreams and desires won’t be realized as we imagine. But we can trust God that in the end all will be well. Perhaps too, this reading suggests, that while it is good to wait on God, and we all know God works in God’s time, not ours, waiting isn’t a passive pastime. We don’t just sit and wait. We live today, work today, pray today, laugh today, cry today, minister to others today, and actively wait on the Lord. What are you waiting for…?