Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Christmas Story: Elizabeth's Story

Before The Christmas Story became Jesus' story....it was Joesph's story...but before it was Joseph's story...it was Mary's story...but before it was Mary's story...it was her relative, Elizabeth's story.

Let's begin with Elizabeth's story in Luke 1:5-25:        
 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly.  But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God,  he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.  And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.  When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 

He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 

After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.  “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

Yes...the story of Christmas really does begin with Elizabeth's story. Elizabeth had wanted to become a mother for a very very long time. She was, as her husband put it, "well along in years". So "well along" that all hope of having a baby was gone for both her and Zechariah. They had given up on this hope...but God had not.

He had a plan. He had a very good plan.

Elizabeth had been asking and waiting for God's favor for many many years. Can you relate? I sure can. Maybe you have asked God for something important and have waited and waited and waited...and yet...nothing. You have heard nothing from God. It's frustrating isn't it? I have certainly been there.

I have struggled with God's timing...especially when what I asked for seemed to be something really good...not just for me, but others. It felt like a reasonable request...one God could easily grant. But of course God isn't our Fairy God Mother....granting our every wish.

No, he's our Faithful Loving Father...with a plan. A very good plan.

It turned out that God did want to give Elizabeth and Zechariah a baby...in His perfectly planned time. And God's timing was perfect, because Elizabeth and Mary would be pregnant at the same time.

In Elizabeth's story, God blesses her with a child...a child that will grow up to be John the Baptist. With this pregnancy, God put together a very good plan: Elizabeth and her baby John will be very special support in the lives of Mary and her baby Jesus.

Soon Elizabeth will offer a newly pregnant Mary a loving welcome into her home, and years down the road, John proves to be a tremendous support to Jesus in both his life and his ministry.

In this passage from Luke,  Elizabeth is feeling favor from the Lord! She waited for so long, but now she has so much joy...and guess what? She has no idea the blessings that are yet to come! Even though she doesn't yet know it...Elizabeth is about to play a key role in the story of the birth of Jesus.

Yes, God has a plan. A wonderfully perfectly-timed plan.

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