Since December naturally funnels our thoughts toward Jesus, I’ve kept my eyes open this week for a fresh approach to writing about His birth. Yesterday, my eyes landed once again on a treasure I received from our church on Mother’s Day. A frameable print of Luke 1:45 perches on a ledge above my bathroom sink. My mind recites those gold embossed words every morning, and I smile as I remember God’s faithfulness as a promise keeper.
“BLESSED IS SHE WHO HAS BELIEVED THAT THE LORD WOULD FULFILL HIS PROMISES TO HER.”Luke 1:45
After re-reading those now-memorized words, I realized Luke 1 just might hold the inspiration for today’s blog. With the Word in my lap, I asked the Spirit to show me something I may have previously overlooked – something new to me.
Carve out a few minutes today so you can go back and read Luke 1 again for yourself. There you’ll run headlong into the angel Gabriel. But, fear not! His words will soon funnel your thoughts toward the miraculous, and you will be inspired to harness your childlike faith. Let me explain.
As Luke’s account of Jesus’ life begins, Gabriel first speaks to Zechariah, the priest sent into the temple’s inner sanctuary to offer the once-a-year atonement sacrifice. We’re told that Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth are righteous followers of God and are also “well along in years” – far beyond childbearing age. Gabriel meets Zechariah in the innermost part of the temple where only chosen priests are allowed to enter. He proclaims that Zechariah and Elizabeth will soon have the son they’ve prayed for (John the Baptist) who will prepare the way for the Lord. Then, verse 18 reads, “‘How can I know this?’ Zechariah asked the angel. ‘For I am well along in years.’”
Gabriel doesn’t seem to appreciate this lack of faith on Zechariah’s part. After all, Zechariah is a man of God who’s been trained in the Old Law forward, backward, and sideways. He knows the rules and played the game well for a very long time. Gabriel then announces that Zechariah will be silent, unable to speak until the baby is born because he did not believe the angel’s words.
Now, let’s fast-forward a few months and take a look at a sweet, young girl living in Nazareth. Gabriel appears to her, calls her by name, and announces a similar prophecy for Mary. She is to have a son who will be great and called the Son of the Most High. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. Then, verse 34 reads, “Mary asked the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have not had sexual relations with a man?’”
As I stepped into the story of Luke 1 and looked intently at what was happening, I noticed something I’d never paid attention to before. These verses contained two very similar angelic prophecies followed by two very similar human questions. However, the questions were answered with two extremely different responses. To Mary, Gabriel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (v.35)
So why was Zechariah struck mute and declared a doubter, while Mary, the woman defined as favored, received an exciting promise?
I sat back and thought about Zechariah and Mary for a while. I soon began to realize that the most striking difference in their lives was their age!
Mary was young and innocent. She had not lived long enough to benefit from seeing the mighty hand of God at work in her life over and over and over. I feel sure she had a deep and abiding love for God, but at this point her faith was young and just beginning to blossom. She had few hooks on which to hang her faith.
On the other hand, Zechariah’s years should have given him hundreds of opportunities to witness the wonders of God. Surely, he must have benefitted time after time from God’s righteous right hand. Certainly, God must have sent an army of friends to his rescue many times throughout his long life.
You may be reading this and thinking that your young faith resembles Mary’s. Please remember, even a tiny mustard seed, when cared for properly, soon grows mightily. “Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20) There is great value in a childlike faith. “[Jesus] called a child and had him stand among them. ‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ‘unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child – this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 18:2-4)
Maybe you’re reading this knowing your faith most resembles that of Zechariah. You’ve thought for years that you’ve followed the rules and played the game well, but when your faith gets tested with more than you can handle, all you find is doubt. When you hear a promise from God, you ask yourself, “How can I know this?”
That’s when you sit back and remember. Remember all the times you’ve seen God do the impossible. Remember the people He’s put in front of you at just the right time. Remember the blessings He’s showered on you, as well as the heart-wrenching tests that helped increase your faith.
Then, remember an old priest named Zechariah who entered into God’s process obediently and helped raise a trailblazer for Jesus. Don’t forget to remember a sweet, young girl named Mary who had no idea how God would do what He promised, but entered into His process obediently anyway and gave birth to the Savior of the world.
It’s December. It’s time to remember.