The Advent Door Reading Plan
Day 11 Reading: Luke 1:68-79
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Zechariah’s song of blessing to God and to his infant son, John.
Zechariah sings. Full of wild hope, he sings. Knowing the state of the world, he sings. – Jan Richardson, Through the Advent Door
Have you ever noticed the parallels between the stories of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis and Zechariah and Elizabeth in Luke? Today was the first time I did. Wow! All I can do is marvel at God’s constancy over thousands of years. I am so very thankful God remains steadfast and faithful in the midst of this ever changing life.
Like their ancestors Abraham and Sarah, Zechariah and Elizabeth are blessed with a son in their old age. Both sons would serve a key role in the fulfilling of the covenant. The connection is not lost on Zechariah, who praises God for remaining faithful to the covenant with Abraham.
Both couples receive news of their child from heavenly visitors. One spouse believes the announcement (Abraham and Elizabeth) while the other does not. (Sarah and Zechariah) The unbelieving spouse is quick to reveal their disbelief with their responses. Sarah laughs in disbelief when the heavenly visitors reveal she will have a son. (Genesis 18) Zechariah is ministering in the holy of holies of the Temple when the angel Gabriel reveals Elizabeth will bear a son. Zechariah’s questioning of Gabriel reveals his disbelief. (Luke 1)
Zechariah’s disbelief results in a ten month verbal time out. His imposed silence reminds us of the previous 400 hundred years of silence experienced by God’s people when there were no prophets in Israel. The return of Zechariah’s voice foreshadows the return of a prophet, his son John the Baptist. John’s prophetic preaching ministry in the wilderness would prepare the way for the coming of Jesus Christ – the Word of God made flesh, the Promised Messiah, the Fulfillment of Covenant.
God tests Abraham by asking him to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. As Abraham’s knife plunges towards the boy, an angel stops him and shows him that God has provided a ram (male sheep) for the sacrifice. Later, John the Baptizer would identify Jesus as the Lamb of God, the One God provides to be the ultimate sacrifice for all sin for all time.
1 Peter 1:18-19 (NRSV)
You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.
The heavenly visitors tell both families what to name their sons. Abraham and Sarah’s son will be named Isaac, meaning laughter; a constant reminder of Sarah’s reaction to the birth announcement and God’s joy at doing the impossible. Zechariah and Elizabeth will name their son John, meaning God is gracious.
God establishes circumcision as a sign of the covenant with Abraham and his descendants. (Genesis 17) Zechariah’s silence is broken at the circumcision and naming of his son, John, when he agrees to name the child as God had directed. John would make the way for Jesus to establish baptism as the new sign of the covenant, where we are named and claimed by God.
Galatians 3:26-29 (NRSV)
In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
In the Old Testament, God reveals the covenant promises. In the New Testament, God fulfills those promises in the coming of Jesus the Messiah. God didn’t stop there. Even today, God continues to remember, rescue, and redeem. As God’s people for today, we have the chance to continue the long line of those who join God in extending that blessing and salvation to the nations. Will we?
Come, let us use the grace divine, and all with one accord,
in a perpetual covenant join ourselves to Christ the Lord;
Give up ourselves, thru Jesus’ power, his name to glorify;
and promise, in this sacred hour, for God to live and die.
The covenant we this moment make be ever kept in mind;
we will no more our God forsake, or cast these words behind.
We never will throw off the fear of God who hears our vow;
and if thou art well pleased to hear, come down and meet us now.
Thee, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, let all our hearts receive,
present with thy celestial host the peaceful answer give;
to each covenant the blood apply which takes our sins away,
and register our names on high and keep us to that day!
– Charles Wesley
This year’s Advent reflections are inspired by the e-book Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas [Kindle Edition] by author and artist Jan Richardson. In the style of a classic Advent calendar, Jan offers twenty five reflections, each with an original piece of art. Consider this your invitation to join me and Jan on this journey to Christmas. – Lisa <><
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