August 23, 2008 by  
Filed under Devotions

What would happen if one morning, during the middle of your daily routine, an angel appeared and told you that God had a plan that would completely change your life? How would you respond?

Luke’s account of the Christmas story includes two such incidents, and there are important truths and lessons to be found in these events.

In the first instance, the angel Gabriel appears to the priest Zechariah in the temple as he conducts his duties. Zechariah “was startled and gripped with fear.” Well, I suppose you and I would be, too.

“Do not be afraid, Zechariah,” Gabriel tells him. “Your prayer has been heard. Your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John … he will be great in the sight of the Lord. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back 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 fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Zechariah has been confronted with the heavenly glory of God’s messenger, a clearly supernatural interruption of his day. Yet his response to the angel’s astounding news is to try and fit it into his existing assumptions about his life and his future.

“How can I be sure of this?” responds Zechariah. “I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Zechariah can’t believe that he and Elizabeth could have a child, much less grasp the magnitude of John The Baptist’s mission.

Gabriel, who was pretty sure he was being clear, is unamused. “I stand in the presence of God,” he says. “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 proper time.”

When God communicates with us or takes action in our lives, it is rarely with the impact of the angel’s appearance. But I think our reaction is often much like Zechariah’s. We question whether it is real. “Was that God speaking to me, or a hallucination? Was that a miracle, or just a coincidence? And if that really WAS God, can that really be what He meant?”

While we may relate to Zechariah’s confusion and skepticism, we must be aware that it has its cost. It’s not so much that we might be struck dumb if we doubt God’s authority or interest in us, but that we might miss the blessings and peace God desires to share with us.

Whether they come to us through a heavenly messenger or a passage of Scripture, God’s promises are trustworthy, and our ability to accept them and live them is limited primarily by our ability to believe them. As Zechariah’s story demonstrates, God is never predictable, but is always faithful.

These meditations were prepared by Rich Miller of Lawrenceville, New Jersey. 

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  • Hopewell United Methodist Church

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