Week 1 Advent Reading | Peace Isaiah 40:3-5
“In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
In reading the Christmas narrative this year, I find my attention focused on the part played by Zechariah and Elizabeth. While perceived as periphery characters, they really are shining examples of what the Advent season is all about.
In general, I can understand and relate to the Old Testament God-followers, those forward-looking people who lived before Christ’s arrival; the weary souls whose whole lives were wrapped up in waiting. And Zechariah and Elizabeth lived in that era where waiting was about to give way to welcoming. The years of their lives perched precariously on the cusp of fulfillment. The season of Advent.
Advent is a story of darkness becoming light, chaos becoming order, and unrest becoming peace. God revealed his intentions from the beginning through his works of creation. Each workday brought increased light, order and peace. And that Creation narrative pointed forward to the future. God not only brought light and order and peace to the void and empty world, but He would also one day bring light and order and peace to a broken world, through the arrival of Jesus Christ His Son. At creation, God spoke the words that birthed life on earth. At Advent, God would send the Word in flesh to earth to resurrect life. And while both acts of light, order and peace were universal, they are also so very personal. God still participates in the work of birthing life, as he knits us together in our mother’s womb and counts the number of hairs on each of our heads. And through Jesus, God still participates in the work of resurrecting lives by cleansing consciences, circumcising hearts, and raising up new creations out of baptismal waters.
We who live on this side of Jesus’ arrival, know what He offers. And we can live our days in a place of security, access, relationship, and righteousness. But because we are not fully complete until the day we are with Jesus in heaven, we still can relate to some sort of waiting and chaos, can’t we? So we can ask ourselves these questions: What aches inside of you? What has God not brought order to yet?
Back to Zechariah and Elizabeth. We may choose to view them as weary and waiting souls . . . . .or we may find ourselves instead, viewing them as those who lived their lives in eager expectation. Unlike us, they were praying and longing for a Savior who had not yet come. Like us, they were also praying and longing for the light, order and peace that a Savior would bring into their own personal darkness, chaos and unrest.
Here’s what is so remarkable about Zechariah and Elizabeth — they remained faithful and righteous even while their prayers remained unanswered. As Elizabeth’s womb and their home remained empty, they still chased after the fullness that could be found in God. Even as their hearts cracked and broke with sorrow, they also swelled with praise for Almighty God and engaged with Him in belief and service and prayer.
I love this quote concerning Zechariah and Elizabeth: It takes great maturity to embrace holy contentment and holy expectancy simultaneously. Great things happen in the heart of one who holds fast to faith, peace, and gratitude, all mixed with an essential dose of expectant hope. (Prepare Him Room by Susie Larson)
Notice that the writer says an essential dose of expectant hope. I believe I agree with her. To get through these days, as we wait for Jesus’s second arrival, may we remember that expectant hope is as essential to maturity in Christ as is faith, peace and gratitude. May we rediscover that and cling to it this Christmas!
PRAYER: Yes Lord. I want that. Sometimes (most of the time) I lack the maturity to hold fast to both holy contentment and holy expectancy. Help me. And thank you God for including the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth in the Christmas narrative. Inspire us also to stay faithful and to embrace expectancy. You are the God who speaks the cosmos into existence and you are the God who speaks peace into my heart. I praise you!
Christmas Carol: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.