Devotions for December 14-20, 2015
Luke 1:5-13, 57-80
Monday, December 14, 2015
“In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah” (Luke 1:5).
Luke could have started his account of Jesus’ ministry with the words, “Once upon a time, in a land far, far away.” Luke didn’t do this, however. He wanted everyone to know that his account of Jesus was not a fairy tale, nor was it a work of fiction. Luke’s account is grounded in history. The story takes place at a specific time—in the days of King Herod. Luke records a specific place, also—Judea. God has entered human history. God is moving in the world.
God busts into our world too. It may be through the, “peace that passes all understanding.” The sense of being forgiven and the ability to forgive are other ways that God enters our lives. We may receive the courage to face our greatest fears, or the ability to love the unlovable. The Lord’s methods of moving in our lives and in our world today are endless. God is not merely a theological abstraction, but a participant in history.
It is also important for us to realize that we are God’s presence in the world. The Holy Spirit empowers us in a similar way to how the Spirit empowered John the Baptist and Jesus. The Lord uses us to carry on Jesus’ ministry; to share the good news of Jesus and God’s love and grace.
Yahweh, “I Am”, thank you for breaking into our world. Open our eyes that we may see you and open our hands that we may share you. Amen.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
“Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to the commandments” (Luke 1:6).
Things were not working out for Michael. He didn’t get the job that he had really wanted. His car broke down and added a significant expense to an already pinched month. The stuffy nose and tickle in his throat told him that he was coming down with a cold. As Michael sat and lamented his situation he mumbled, “What have I done wrong? God must be punishing me for something.” Even though we know that God is not some celestial police officer who slaps us with a ticket when we do something wrong, we can’t help thinking it occasionally.
Luke wants to set the record straight. Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous people. Their barrenness was not caused by God’s punishment. Instead they didn’t have children until the Lord needed someone to prepare the way for the Messiah. God was moving in a way that was beyond Zechariah and Elizabeth’s imagination, and God moved in their lives at just the right time.
Things may be falling apart in our lives, but the Lord is still present. Our lives may not be going the way we want them to go, but God is still able to use us to share the gospel and God’s love and grace. We don’t have to blame ourselves or God. Instead we can take comfort in God’s love and presence.
Gracious God, forgive us when we blame you for all the bad that happens in our lives. Enable us to trust that even in our trials and tribulations you are moving. Amen.
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
“For your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son” (Luke 1:13).
Prayer us one of our most holy activities. We enter into God’s presence and speak to God. Prayer is also one of the most mysterious activities that we do. Thousands of books have been written on prayer. Still no one really understands prayer. Prayer is one of the most grace filled activities that we do. We come before the Lord as beggars, with no bargaining power, but only our needs. God responds to our prayers because of God’s love and grace.
Many of us think that prayer works when our prayers are answered and our prayers fail when they go unanswered. This is not a very helpful view of prayer. Prayer becomes very frustrating as we work hard to get it right. It is more useful for us to confess that prayer is simply conversing with God. The wonder—the miracle—of prayer is that God listens. The angel Gabriel appeared before Zechariah and assured him that God had heard his prayer. We have that same assurance.
Most Holy God, thank you for listening to us when we pray. Amen.
Thursday, December 17, 2015
“With the Spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him … to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17).
Preparation is a key word during the Season of Advent. During this season we put up a Christmas tree, decorate our homes and bake Christmas goodies for Christmas Day and our celebrations that surround it. The Season of Advent also reminds us that our preparation efforts go beyond the opening of gifts on Christmas Day. We live our lives to prepare the world for the coming of the Lord.
When Gabriel announced to Zechariah that Elizabeth was going to conceive and bear a child, the angel went on to say what that child would do. John would make the people ready. John would turn the hearts of many to the Lord, with the power of the Holy Spirit.
We take up John’s mission today. We received this call at the time of our baptism. We use our gifts and talents to prepare the world when we seek justice, strive for peace, call for mercy and share God’s love and grace. John’s life mattered in God’s movement in the world, and so does ours.
O Holy Spirit, use us, as you did John, to prepare our lives and the world for Jesus’ coming. Amen.
Friday, December 18, 2015
“How will I know that this is so” (Luke 1:18)?
After decades of praying for a child and not having one, it was difficult for Zechariah to believe that his prayers were finally going to be answered. As he struggled with his unbelief, Zechariah kept confronting the reality that both he and Elizabeth were well past their childbearing years. Their bodies didn’t function in that way any longer. So Zechariah asks for a sign. We would think that the presence of an angel would have been enough signage for him, but Zechariah still wanted more.
We often look for signs. Answered prayers are frequently seen as signs of God’s love. Unanswered prayers cause us to question the reality of God’s love. We think that finding the Ark on Mount Ararat would be a sign that the Bible is true. A lot of our time is spent looking for signs. Signs don’t quell our unbelief, though. When we see a sign we want more signs to be doubly sure. Zechariah wanted a sign even though we was speaking to an angel.
As disciples of Jesus we are called to live lives of faith. Faith sometimes requires us to live with few if any signs. The one sign of God’s love and grace is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. With that one sign we are able to rest in God’s love, walk in God’s grace and serve with the Spirit’s presence and power.
Almighty God, thank you for the sign of your love in Jesus. Empower us now that we may be signs of your love and presence to the people around us. Amen.
Saturday, December 19, 2015
“He has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors” (Luke 1:72).
When John is born, Zechariah is filled with the Holy Spirit and begins to speak a prophecy—a proclamation of what God was doing. Zechariah’s song is a celebration of the great things that God is doing. God has looked favorably upon God’s people and God has raised up a mighty savior. God is keeping God’s promises.
Keeping promises is important. When promises are kept trust is built while broken promises break trust. God keeps God’s promises. Today we live in the truth that God has never broken a promise. God has promised to be with us always (Matthew 28:20). God has promised that absolutely nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39). The gift of a new life—an abundant life—is another one of God’s promises (John 10:10). Living in God’s promises we join Zechariah in praising God for what God has done and is doing. God will continue to keep God’s word. We can count on that.
Faithful Lord, empower us to act boldly as we live in your love and trust in your promises. Amen.
Sunday, December 20, 2015
“To give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:79).
Miguel was engrossed in a page turner novel. He didn’t grasp that time had passed and the sun had begun to set. When his wife snapped on the light, Miguel was startled by the brightness and realized that the room had grown dark. The light made it easier for him to continue to read his novel. After spending a week in the cloudy and damp Northwest, Susan was glad to return to her home in Arizona. Walking from the terminal into the sunlight Susan was surprised by how bright the sun was and understood that she had really missed the light.
When the savior arrived he would bring light to the darkness. The Bible often plays with the image of light and dark. The darkness is a place of confusion. When the savior comes the “light bulb” turns on and the people comprehend. Darkness is a place of fear. When the savior comes the light will shine and the “rats,” “cockroaches” and forces of evil will retreat. Darkness is the abode of death. When the savior comes he will bring with him light and new life.
The light has shined in our lives. We are beginning to understand, we live with courage instead of fear and we have new life. Now, we reflect that light to those around us. The light pierces their darkness as it did ours and they are able to join us walking in the light.
Beautiful Savior, thank you for bringing light and life into our lives. Amen.