Thursday of the Third Week of Advent - 19th December
In the days of King Herod of Judea there lived a priest called Zechariah who belonged to the Abijah section of the priesthood, and he had a wife, Elizabeth by name, who was a descendant of Aaron.
Both were upright in the sight of God and impeccably carried out all the commandments and observances of the Lord.
But they were childless: Elizabeth was barren and they were both advanced in years.
Now it happened that it was the turn of his section to serve, and he was exercising his priestly office before God
when it fell to him by lot, as the priestly custom was, to enter the Lord's sanctuary and burn incense there.
And at the hour of incense all the people were outside, praying.
Then there appeared to him the angel of the Lord, standing on the right of the altar of incense.
The sight disturbed Zechariah and he was overcome with fear.
But the angel said to him, 'Zechariah, do not be afraid, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth is to bear you a son and you shall name him John.
He will be your joy and delight and many will rejoice at his birth,
for he will be great in the sight of the Lord; he must drink no wine, no strong drink; even from his mother's womb he will be filled with the Holy Spirit,
and he will bring back many of the Israelites to the Lord their God.
With the spirit and power of Elijah, he will go before him to reconcile fathers to their children and the disobedient to the good sense of the upright, preparing for the Lord a people fit for him.'
Zechariah said to the angel, 'How can I know this? I am an old man and my wife is getting on in years.'
The angel replied, 'I am Gabriel, who stand in God's presence, and I have been sent to speak to you and bring you this good news.
Look! Since you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time, you will be silenced and have no power of speech until this has happened.'
Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and were surprised that he stayed in the sanctuary so long.
When he came out he could not speak to them, and they realised that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. But he could only make signs to them and remained dumb.
When his time of service came to an end he returned home.
Some time later his wife Elizabeth conceived and for five months she kept to herself, saying,
'The Lord has done this for me, now that it has pleased him to take away the humiliation I suffered in public.'
What seems impossible to us in not impossible to God. For Zechariah, the thought that he and his wife could conceive was unthinkable. Zechariah and Elizabeth were upright people (the same word used in yesterday’s Gospel to describe Joseph) but unlike Joseph, Zechariah was overcome with fear. Fear is a natural response to things that are unknown, to things that seem impossible or difficult. The things God asks of us are often things that make us fearful because they seem impossible to us. I can’t, how could that be?
1 John 4:18-19 tells us “In love there is no room for fear, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear implies punishment and no one who is afraid has come to perfection in love. Let us love, then, because he first loved us.” It is in our love of God and in His perfect love for us that we cast our our fears.
Advent Advantage: We all have things we avoid doing because they scare us. Is there something God has been asking of you that you are afraid of? Work today on overcoming your fear with love.