After our move, Sam and I have been hunting for a church. What we didn’t realize was that during the holiday season, churches have a tendency to do all sorts of crazy things like switching times and hosting special services. One Sunday we showed up, sang two worship songs, the pastor talked for 10 minutes, and then the entire church flooded out the doors to go grocery shopping to supply the local food pantries with food for Thanksgiving. Awesome…? Yes. But not your typical service.
This past Sunday, the pastor began reading from Luke. Now, I’m not going to lie. I’m a pastor’s kid and I went to Bible School. I’ve heard the Christmas story a hundred times. And it’s still special because it tells of how my Savior came to earth as a child…for me. And for you. But, I could practically tell the story verbatim.
“In those days, Cesar Agustus issued a decree…”
As though he could read my mind, the pastor began his message by talking about how we sometimes read a particular passage so many times that we can tune it out or skim over it. We assume that we will learn nothing new and, in so doing, completely miss what the Holy Spirit has to say. Adequately scolded, I shifted uncomfortably in my chair as he began to read the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1).
Instead of the typical intro with incredibly hard to pronounce Biblical names that stretch on for miles…the only intro we get about this couple is a simple description. Elizabeth and Zechariah were “righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly.” (Verse 5)
Yea. How’s that for an intro? However, in addition to singing their praises, the very next sentence starts off with… “BUT” But they were baren. They could not have children. Here is a couple walking in righteousness, doing everything according to God’s will, and yet they could not have children. In a day and a culture in which women did not climb the corporate ladder and the family unit was viewed as being much more important than our culture seems to think it is, they could not have children. Not only that, but bareness had been seen earlier in scriptures as a punishment from God. Can you imagine the questions they asked themselves?
God, why? What have we done? What have we not done? Is this to punish us?
Years later, in their old age, can you imagine their disappointed cries to a God they thought they had served faithfully? God, why not? Why could we not have children? How bittersweet it must have been to hold a child in their arms, glad for the blessing of God in their friends’ lives, but aching for a child of their own.
How many of us have cried out to God in desperate disappointment over unfulfilled dreams in our lives?
The thing that neither Elizabeth or Zechariah knew was this: they WOULD have a son. And that son would prepare a way for their Messiah. Their son, conceived in their old age, would bring a message of hope to their people. He would be THE forerunner of the One who had been prophesied about for generations. Their son was ordained by God to be conceived at a particular time for a particular purpose. 6 months after their conception, the angel appeared to Mary. The stage was set. It was time.
And then, the pastor asked a question that rocked me to the core:
- I must refuse to let circumstances interpret God’s heart toward me
- Our circumstances are not a commentary on how God feels about us