In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all God’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of God. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to God. And he will go on before the Messiah, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the son of God.” Luke 1:5-17 (NIV)
Word of Hope:
This scripture is foretelling the birth of John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus. John the Baptist will prepare people for the coming of Jesus. I love this story. In the following verses, Mary will be visited by the Angel Gabriel (the same angel who visited Zechariah), who will inform her that she will give birth to a son who will be called the son of the Most High. Mary then visits her aunt Elizabeth, who, on hearing Mary’s greeting, feels John leap for joy within her womb, in recognition of the coming of Jesus.
This sets the tone of excitement and anticipation for the coming of Christ. Advent is like this for me, a time of excitement and anticipation. Often, I find that the season passes by too quickly. I have to be purposeful in how I focus on Advent, so that I can slow down enough to find joy in the season and not be overwhelmed by shopping and other preparations for “the perfect Christmas.”
One practice that helps me is to light the candles of an Advent wreath at home each day during Advent. I read an Advent devotion after lighting the candles. These devotions are available from several sources; I have several books of Advent devotions. If you would rather, you can just sing a Christmas carol or hymn each day after lighting the candles. Don’t let the lack of an Advent wreath stop you from observing Advent in this way. A simple votive candle can stand in for an Advent Wreath.
Magnificent God, help me to prepare my heart for Your gift, the coming of your son, Jesus.
Molly Sutton, COH member