Immanuel (1): God is with the Hopeful: Zachariah and Elizabeth
The angel announced, “…the child conceived in Mary is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet Isaiah: ‘Look, the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.’ (Which means God with us).”
In Jesus, God is now with us. A woman two thousand years ago has a bizarre virginal conception of a child and this is means God with us. The question I want to mediate upon to prepare our hearts and minds for Christmas is how is God for us through this story? Specifically, what do the characters of this story show us about how God is with us today?
We can learn a lot about the company God chooses to be near in this story. So, we are going to look at Zachariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and kings.
God is with the Hopeful: Zachariah and Elizabeth
The story of Christmas does not begin with the story of Christmas. It begins with the birth of John the Baptist. It says a priest named Zachariah and his wife Elizabeth “lived blamelessly according to all the commandments of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). They did not have children, but they placed their hope in God obediently. What I find ironic about this is that when hope did come, Zachariah couldn’t believe it.
When Zachariah was in the sanctuary of the Temple. An angel appeared and Zachariah was terrified. The angel says, “Do not be afraid.” He continues to tell him that he and his wife will have a son, John the Baptist, who will be filled with the Holy Spirit, will announce repentance, and will prepare the way for the Lord.” Interestingly enough, Zachariah questions the angel. If an ultra powerful, supernatural being materialized in front of me, I don’t I would question what this being was saying to its face. So, I find that funny. Zachariah is described as a man of near perfect obedience to God, and when a supernatural being appears to him to tell him that he and his wife will be granted what they probably have been praying for decades, he can’t believe it! It is ironic really.
Sometimes people of great faith still can’t believe the good news. Sometimes people of great hope and prayer can’t comprehend it when their prayers are answered.
This is just like us isn’t it? We live our lives waiting on something better. Waiting on the perfect life, not settling on anything less sometimes. Yet when we hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the answer to everything we could never want and need, we say, “How can that be? That can’t be! I’ve been hoping for the impossible, but now that it is here, I can’t believe that – why? – because its impossible! It doesn’t make sense!”
People have trouble trusting good news. My question to you is what have you been waiting for your whole life? What is that better thing you have been striving for, hoping for and praying for? And can you allow yourself to trust that Jesus is the fulfillment of all your goals, dreams, and prayers to night?