A couple of weeks ago, I travelled to Ohio for my second residency of a Spiritual Direction program that I am taking for the next two years. At that time, the season of Advent had begun and one of the speakers (Dr. Anne Halley) shared with us that she had been reading through the book of Luke in preparation for Christmas. She explained, “Pope John 2nd once said that every advent reminds us grace is more powerful than sin. Advent is a waiting season and I have been spending time, thinking about the main characters of the Christmas story.”
Anne encouraged us to ask questions about Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph. For the next few days, as we come closer to Christmas Day, I am going to ponder my way through the the early chapters of the book of Luke. Much of this material comes directly from Dr. Anne Halley but I have added some questions that came to mind as I read the scriptures.
Zechariah was a priest and his wife was Elizabeth. Both of them were upright in the sight of God. (verse 6a) But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and the were both well along in years. (verse 7) Zechariah had never been given the honour to enter the Holy of Holies but once when his division was on duty…he was chosen by lot to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. (verse10) While he was there, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him that he was going to have a son. He asked for a sign and from that point on, Zechariah was unable to speak for the rest of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.
Why was Zechariah so afraid when the angel appeared?
What emotions did he feel when he was told that he was going to have a son, despite his age?
How must he have felt when the angel told him about his future son’s responsibility? (“to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”)
Why did Zechariah ask for a sign from the angel? Do I demand a sign from God in my circumstances?
Why did God close Zechariah’s mouth? I wonder how difficult it was for him to be silent for nine months. Was he frustrated? Content? Secure? Afraid? Did this experience change him from the inside out?
Did Zechariah feel punished because of his initial unbelief?
How must Elizabeth have felt? She had lived with the indignation and shame of not being enough (being barren) and now, she was pregnant. She recognized right away that this child was a gift (The Lord has done this for me…He has shown his favour) and she began to prepare herself.
How do I prepare myself in this season of waiting?
I wonder if Elizabeth used this time to practise looking for God. I wonder is she was a “present moment” woman. What did she do in those months of seclusion? What was she saying to God as this child grew within her? What was Elizabeth learning about God?
Anne Halley said that Elizabeth had “pregnant awareness of littleness.” I like this phrase. Note to self – think about this some more. 🙂
How do I prepare for the birth of Jesus? What’s going on in my soul in this Advent season? Do I feel the calm of this season?
What blocks my inner awareness?
Do I experience the deep joy and quiet confidence that Elizabeth felt as she carried her son to term? In that culture, the father named the child, but Elizabeth spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” Her neighbours and relatives challenged her but she stood firm. Why was she able to be so strong proclaiming something that was against her culture?
Am I afraid to trust? Do I have the courage and joy to stand against the crowds?
How do I listen for God’s voice?
Do I feel the Holy Spirit in me leap for joy?
Do I look for evidences of Jesus in my day?
Do I have a spirit of wonder as I wait?