Get the first part of the Bible Project overview here.
These are long chapters, covering many remarkable things, but at the center of this story we find ordinary people, struggling to understand the magnitude of God’s use of them.
First, there’s Zechariah, the aged, childless priest who hears this:
“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, your prayers have been heard, for your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you will call him John. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (1:16-17)
This description of John is a reference to Malachi 4:5-6. No one has heard from the LORD in centuries, and imagine Him speaking out, for the first time, to say, “your deepest desires are about to come true. Plus, your son is a fulfillment of ancient prophesy.” He is taken aback, even more skeptical, but his speech, nine months later (found in 1:68-79), shows how, after some time, he has begun to embrace the deep implications of his life.
For Mary, there are many encounters with the divine. Her initial visitation from Gabriel, the Holy Spirit confirming it through Elizabeth and baby John, the story of the Host of Heaven told by the shepherds, the exaltations of Simeon and Anna and Jesus’ own observation when they lost him in Jerusalem. She pondered these things in her heart and treasured these things in her heart.
All these signs, and yet, when Jesus starts his ministry, 18 years later, no one sees him coming! Tomorrow we will read about how John sees him coming, but even so, later in his life, John—from his prison cell—questions everything.
This is all deeply relatable. The weight of the glory of God coming to earth, in Jesus, is too great to comprehend. On a smaller scale, I have many words from the Lord and promises, as I’m sure many of you do. To be honest, I have to write them down and re-read them regularly, because life, the frailty of humanity and the perceived distance from all things divine, make these promises easy to forget or cast aside.
Instead of striking us all dumbstruck, like He does with Zechariah, the LORD is often gentle, and repeats Himself, like He does with Mary. The truth is important to hold on to, and it’s life and death to accept.
How many times in Mary’s life did she call to mind the testimony of the shepherds?
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (2:10-11)
How many times in her life, living in a small, poor community, at some point losing her husband, was she afraid? Did she remember these words? “Fear not”?
This news of great joy is for all people. How often do I need to remember to calm down and remember the Savior Of the World has already arrived?
I hope you all have a Merry Christmas, as you remember the greatest gift humanity could have ever received. Share this joy and hope with all people. He is for us all and He is able to use us; becoming a part of His beautiful story.