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.
A poem inspired by Zechariah’s musings of his son
And you, child… we have been praying for you longer than I ever imagined I could pray for something. I prayed for you so long I gave up on thinking you would ever arrive.. And you child, you have been marked for something amazing.
And you child…you are here, you are real, you are the fulfillment of every hope and desire we have ever had. You child, prove the existence of a God I had nearly given up on too… you child, you will be the one who leads to my salvation… and apparently the one who leads so many to their salvation.
And you, child… what will it mean to be the prophet of the Most High? What will come after you that could be even more incredible than you? And you child… What story will you tell?
And you child… as you age and as you grow what new thing will you usher in? What trails will you blaze, what path will you guide, where shall you give light? Child where will you be, what will you learn, what will you teach?
And you, child, precious to me, the one who gave me back my belief, my joy, my hope, my future… I know one day I will have to let you go… let you forge this path, let you go into the wilderness of life. I know one day you will do all these things and more… and yet, I cannot fathom letting you out of my sight…
And you, child, the Lord has so many plans for you – plans to bring you hope, us hope, our salvation. You child will bear the light in the darkness, call forth goodness, prepare the way of the Lord.
And you child… I want to be like you… I too want to bear the things to come and lead down the path that leads to hope…
And you child… prepare. And you, child… strengthen. For you walk a road few will follow, but will save the whole world… prepare ye the way of the Lord.
By the Rev. Gabrielle Corbett
For Pondering & Prayer
This Advent: What story will you tell about God’s work in your life?