“’He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.’” – Mary, praising God, knowing she was pregnant with Jesus in Luke 1:54-55
“‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation
from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us –to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.’” – Zechariah prophesying after the birth of his son, John the Baptist in Luke 1:67-75
It was the time of Herod, king of Judea, and in a small town among some ordinary people, God was about to show himself in miraculous ways. We know the story. Jesus came to bring redemption to a broken world in need of a savior. His birth is why we celebrate Christmas.
This year, during the first week of Advent, you may not feel like celebrating. With the reality of a global pandemic and the numerous challenges it has brought to our lives in 2020, it is clear that we are still in the messy middle of God’s story. We, like those before us, are in desperate need of hope. We continue to be on the lookout for our savior, waiting for miraculous events to happen.
Mary and Zechariah were in similar positions when they are introduced to us at the beginning of Luke. They were familiar with the words of the Old Testament. They knew of the covenants God had made with their ancestors; declarations of the Lord’s unfailing love covering generations. God’s plan had been laid out in such detail by prophets of the past that when Matthew wrote his gospel, he included over 45 quotations from other places in Scripture, most of them Messianic, pointing directly to Jesus.
Yet, these individuals, who play such key roles in the Christmas story, aren’t fully prepared when they are visited by the angel, Gabriel. In the limbo of the in between, daily life can easily overshadow the hope of what God promises for our future. The triumphant ending of the story can feel just as distant as the good news given to those who encountered the Lord long ago.
While fear and doubt are natural reactions to the angel’s messages, the father of John the Baptist and the mother of Jesus replace those responses with praise, truth, and hope. They are in the middle of the story. John was not making the way in the wilderness yet. Jesus had not been laid in a manger, let alone resurrected from the grave. And we were not celebrating Christmas. While much was unknown and yet to be revealed, Mary and Zechariah chose to bless the Lord, holding onto the wisdom of prophets before them and recognizing the hope of salvation yet to come. In this season, may we follow in their footsteps and do the same.
God, Thank you for the story you are telling and for our place within it. The middle can be messy, but like Mary and Zechariah, we want to praise you here. We know of the loving ways you’ve miraculously shown up for those who walked this earth before us. We believe in your promises still to be fulfilled in the future. On this first week of Advent, take away daily distractions that keep us from clinging to the hope that Jesus brings, and help us walk in faith as we await what you’ll do next. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
› What does it mean for you to be in the messy middle of God’s story? How have you felt a need for a savior this year?
› When you look back, what do you already know about God’s story that gives you hope for the future? In your day-to-day life, what overshadows that hope?
› What are practical steps you can take this week to remind yourself of where you are in the story?