During Advent, we are featuring devotionals written by clergy of the Greater NJ Annual Conference of the UMC. For this first week, we are focused on reflections related to Zechariah, the skeptical father of John the Baptist, and his wife Elizabeth.
5 During the rule of King Herod of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah. His wife Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron. 6 They were both righteous before God, blameless in their observance of all the Lord’s commandments and regulations. 7 They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to become pregnant and they both were very old. 8 One day Zechariah was serving as a priest before God because his priestly division was on duty. 9 Following the customs of priestly service, he was chosen by lottery to go into the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense. 10 All the people who gathered to worship were praying outside during this hour of incense offering. 11 An angel from the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw the angel, he was startled and overcome with fear.
13 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayers have been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to your son and you must name him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many people will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the Lord’s eyes. He must not drink wine and liquor. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth. 16 He will bring many Israelites back to the Lord their God.
23 When he completed the days of his priestly service, he returned home. 24 Afterward, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant. She kept to herself for five months, saying, 25 “This is the Lord’s doing. He has shown his favor to me by removing my disgrace among other people.”
76 You, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.
77 You will tell his people how to be saved
through the forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of our God’s deep compassion,
the dawn from heaven will break upon us,
79 to give light to those who are sitting in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide us on the path of peace.”
80 The child grew up, becoming strong in character. He was in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.
If I peered into the shadows
what light would I see
gathering itself together,
swelling with life,
until it could no longer be contained?
Invitation to Prayerful Attention
Poetry and art can provide opportunities to listen for the Spirit’s movement in us as we hold them prayerfully with God. Perhaps one of the above is stirring up something within you today. If so, you are invited to use the below guide to enter more deeply into this time of prayer by journeying with the poem or photograph.
Take a few moments to breathe simply. Don’t change your breath; just notice what it is naturally doing.
After a few moments, turn your attention to the poem or photograph, whichever seems to draw you in.
If it’s the poem, as you read over it, one of these questions may speak to you. Sit with that question.
• What word speaks to you?
• What images, memories, or feelings stir in response?
• How do these words speak to you in the midst of what you are experiencing today? How does it speak to you of God?
If it’s the photography, as you look at it, one of these questions may speak to you. Sit with that question.
• How do you feel when you look at this image?
• If you were to describe this image in a sentence or word, what would you say?
• How does this image speak to you in the midst of what you are experiencing today? How does it speak to you of God?
Allow what is arising in you to unfold and make other connections.
After a few moments, listen for any sense of invitation that’s rising up in you or gift God is giving to you. God may be speaking to you in words, in feelings or images, or even in questions.
After a few more moments, rest into God’s love as you close in prayer, silent or otherwise.
By the Rev. Christina LeLache