2nd Sunday of Lent

Psalm 33:20-22 (NLT)

We put our hope in the Lord.
    He is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
    for we trust in his holy name.
Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord,
    for our hope is in you alone.

A Thought

As I drove down the road I realized I didn’t have any cash with me. At first my mind started racing, wondering if there would be an ATM near that wouldn’t charge me a fee. So many things can happen when you’re out of town and I didn’t want to be stuck somewhere without any money.

My mind relaxed. “If anything happens, I can just use my credit card,” I thought. I felt relieved.

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A Prophecy of Hope

Isaiah 9:6-9 (NLT)

For a child is born to us,  a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
    And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
    for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

A Thought

The people of Israel had been looking for this exact moment in time for over a thousand years. This exact series of events were foretold, prophesied, and anticipated but absolutely unexpected. When it finally happened, no one was prepared. This despite the fact that the government was a puppet regime, there was no fairness in the land, and there was injustice in every court. In short, there was no peace and it was the perfect time.

A promised child would come into a time and place such as this.

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Zechariah’s Proclamation

Luke 1:76-79 (NLT)

And you, my little son,
    will be called the prophet of the Most High,
    because you will prepare the way for the Lord.
You will tell his people how to find salvation
    through forgiveness of their sins.

Because of God’s tender mercy,
    the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    and to guide us to the path of peace.”

A THOUGHT

Baby John has been born. The promise has been fulfilled. The blessing has been bestowed and Zechariah’s voice returns. It is a glorious time for all! For doubt is replaced with declaration, confusion is exchanged for confidence, and fear is traded for faith!

Zechariah’s proclamation of the goodness of God retells the history of God’s faithfulness throughout the generations; invoking Abraham, David, and the prophets – all these great men of faithfulness leading to the birth of his own son, John (yet to be identified as a baptist).

But he is identified as a gift from God. Not just for the family, but for all the people of Israel. This baby boy, only eight days old, is declared as the prophet of the Most High. What a moniker! What a responsibility! What insight on the part of Zechariah!

This is a benchmark moment for this proud papa.

Sure, Zechariah had nine-months to ruminate on the situation. He had an entire pregnancy to allow the idea to gestate in his own mind. But I have to believe that if left to his own devices, Zechariah would have missed the magnitude of the miracle. He would have allowed the significance of this supernatural to slip right past. Luke 1:67 states that Zechariah was “filled with the Holy Spirit” when he gave this proclamation. Let’s be honest, that always helpful when we are seeking to understand God’s activity in our lives.

I often wonder if these same moments happen in my own life, but I miss them; the obvious activity of God is occurring all around and yet I’m oblivious. The majestic movement of the Holy Spirit is materializing in my presence and yet I’m distracted by my own agenda, my own desires.

Perhaps that is why Zechariah’s announcement is so powerful. We walk around with blinders on, eliminating the peripheral vision where God resides. We stumble in the darkness, when God is trying to shine light on our path. We choose to sit in the darkening. We allow the gloaming to overtake us and the long shadows of nightfall to fill our vision.

Zechariah is correct when he proclaims that it is by God’s tender mercy that we experience revelation, light and life, and Hope for a brighter tomorrow. May we see it more clearly today than ever before!

PRAYER

Dear God of Mercy,

Shine your light where it is darkest.

Give morning light to those who live in gloom.

Reveal your path to those who are lost.

And give us peace, love, joy & Hope.

Amen.

It’s A Boy!

Luke 1:57-66 (NLT)

When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her.

When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!”

“What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.” So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God.

Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.

A THOUGHT

It might not be the first thing you focus on when reading this story, but for me, it jumps right off the page: “they used gestures to ask the baby’s father…” You can picture it, can’t you? The crowd looks over to Zechariah and all the people wave and gesticulate in order to get his attention and get an answer. They probably exaggerated their motions, flailing their arms in the air. I can just see Zechariah rolling his eyes with frustration. After all, he was MUTE, not DEAF! He could hear everything happening in the room.

In fact, he’d probably heard quite a bit over the last 9-months.

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God’s Promises and Our Doubt

Luke 1:21-24 (NLT)

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long. When he finally did come out, he couldn’t speak to them. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary.

When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months.

A THOUGHT

I’m so very grateful that God is faithful to his promises, even in the face of our dubious response. Despite Zechariah’s doubt, God delivered on his promise. Elizabeth’s prayers were answered even through her husband’s apprehension. God gave her the desire of her heart and aren’t we glad?

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The Incense Offering

Luke 1:8-20 (NLT)

One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.

While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”

Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”

Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”

A THOUGHT

There is a lot happening in this passage but I want to hone in on one specific item: The Incense Offering. This offering was a way to lift the prayers of the people to God. It represented all those “asks” that the people had from day to day. Not just those general requests for “peace on earth” and “goodwill toward men”, but more specific prayers as well. It was the embodiment of Elizabeth’s prayer for a child. It was the essence of the Israelite prayers for a Redeemer. It was the longing of the prayer for a deliverer.

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Introducing Old People

Luke 1:5-7 (NLT)

When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.

A THOUGHT

Charles Dickens begins his classic, A Christmas Carol, with these words, “Marley was dead: to begin with.  There is no doubt whatever about that…  Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail… This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.”

Luke also understands the power of a good introduction and gives us the same glimpse into the life of our two main characters of this story.

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It’s A Family Thing

The Family of Christ – Matthew 1:1-17

Take a moment and read the passage Matthew from your bible.

A THOUGHT

Let’s be honest, some of you opened the Bible, saw the passage and closed your Bible without even reading it!  Some of you didn’t even open your Bibles. Well, that’s okay. No one but Biblical scholars, Preachers and Rabbis read this section of the new testament anyway. The names are long and hard to pronounce, and the list isn’t really that important anyway…Right?

Wrong. This list, this Family Tree of Jesus, though likely shortened and altered over time, does something more than tie Jesus to the Priesthood of God. This short family history puts Jesus into context. It reminds us that he was part of a family. He didn’t just show up out of the blue. Jesus was flesh and blood.

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