Doctor Luke starts his “orderly account” of the historic events of his day in his letter to his friend Theophilus not by talking about Jesus but by setting the context. Our stories are embedded in and connected to the stories of the lives of others. To understand that God is on the move, we first learn that Herod is king. Then he shares that there is an old priest, Zechariah, and his old wife, Elizabeth, also of the priestly lineage of Aaron, who are childless. This is no small thing even as today it is not a small thing. Infertility casts a shadow on our sexuality, on the state of our marriage, and ultimately questions of future lineage and inheritance. We all have burdens we carry. What is your burden?
Perhaps infertility is not your “challenge.” Some carry the shame of divorce, of disease, of ethnicity or even the poverty of coming from the “wrong side of the tracks.” I doubt few of us do not have skeletons in our closets that color our understanding of ourselves.
The Christmas story does not tell of a God entering a pretty social scene to do his miracle but of a God that loves to work with ordinary, flawed, broken people like us. We might consider ourselves too old, too barren, too this or too that for God to use but I suspect God loves to work in the lives of people like you and me.
The second thing I note is that Zechariah is going about his normal duties and Elizabeth is supporting him in his role. Barrenness did not trump faithfulness. Zechariah wins the “lottery,” the rolling of the dice, is chosen “by lot” to be the priest who is to burn the incense. Nothing extraordinary there. Burning of the incense was taking the prayers of the people to God and interceding for forgiveness. Zechariah is in a state of prayer for his people.
So let us ponder our prayers and the “wish list” that is so commonly talked about at Christmas. Perhaps you have something you have been praying for and it just isn’t happening. But that does not mean that God is not working out a plan. It is in the midst of our stories that God acts and perhaps that means he must first get another player organized. Who do you identify with in this lead up to the Christmas story? Zechariah? Elizabeth? Or perhaps you are the John who will be the answer to their prayers.
During Advent we celebrate that God is always on the move, orchestrating events in life that we may not see or understand but that give us hope – the theme for the first week of Advent. Take a moment to thank God for how he is working in your life, even if you don’t see it right now. He is there! And he cares! He has a plan! Blessings.