Unexpected News

Dear Friends,

With the Christmas season upon us I find myself naturally being drawn once again to the Christmas story, the events leading up to it, and the people involved.  I've been thinking about Zechariah and Mary and their responses to the unexpected news they both receive from Angel Gabriel.

Gabriel appears to Zechariah and says to him “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John." Luke 1:13 (NLT)  Zechariah finds this impossible to believe, he and his wife have prayed for years for children, month after month, year after year, their hopes must have risen time after time,only to be dashed time and time again.  Finally, with old age, they despaired of hope.  Yet God had heard their prayers, the prayers of these two who "were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations." Luke 1:6 (NLT) and now was the time for these prayers to be answered.  Zechariah was unable to respond with faith, only questions.   What he's hearing just isn't possible, it could never happen.  He was just not able to recognise truth behind what he was hearing.  If only God had said this to him when he and Elizabeth were a young couple, then he would have had the faith to believe. 

When believing for something that you know is humanly possible, little faith is required, however, it takes a good deal more faith to believe God for something which you know, humanly speaking, is just not possible.  

19 Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! 20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.” Luke 1:19-20 (NLT).

I'm not here to criticise Zechariah, after all, how often have I, have you, responded with doubt and unbelief when God has said something to us?  How often have I dismissed what God is saying to me because it seems impossible, because I can't fully understand it with my limited mind, how often have I questioned over and over again what I'm hearing, how often have I disagreed or haven't liked what I've heard and refused to believe?

I can quickly forget that God is the God of the impossible, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.” Luke 18:27 (NLT). Yet, God is asking each one of us, to have faith to believe in what he has said to us, the promises he's made to us, and that however unlikely it may seem that it could ever happen, however incredible it may be, to trust that he will fulfil what he has spoken.  As it says in Hebrews 11:1 "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." (NLT)

Let's turn now to Mary's example, which is found in Luke 1:26-38.  I find her response amazing and her example inspiring.  Gabriel explains to her "You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus...The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God." Luke 1:31 and 35 (NLT)  Here's a young, village girl, probably in her mid teens, perhaps of little significance as far as those in the village concerned, but God sees her differently and he has chosen her to be the mother of Jesus, the Son of God.  Mary knows what this could mean for her, her fiancé, Joseph, could reject her, her family could disown her, which could mean she could end up begging or in prostitution in order to survive. She risked being stoned, facing misunderstanding, people believing her to be insane,  criticising her and judging her harshly.  She knows her reputation could suffer greatly, that those who once thought well of her, may now want nothing more to do with her. She is aware that she could lose everything.  All kinds of thoughts and concerns must have been running through her mind, clamouring for her attention.

Yet, with such faith in God she answers Gabriel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” Luke 1:38 (NLT).  She does not yet know just what this will mean for her and her future, she may not understand fully what is going to happen, yet she responds with faith, laying aside her own will, her own plans and dreams, willing to give it all up and to be committed to God's will for her and she humbly chooses to obey, identifying herself as God's servant. 

I don't know about you, but I find that hugely challenging!  Would that I always responded to God with such faith.  That even though I may not fully understand what he is asking of me, even though it may mean giving up my own desires and wishes, giving up what I want for my life, that I will respond to God by saying, "Lord, I'm your servant, I choose to be obedient to you and be committed to following your will for me."

To Think About:
In the past have you ever responded like Zechariah to something God was saying to you?  What were the consequences or your response?

Is God saying something to you, that you don't quite understand, that perhaps humanly speaking doesn't make much sense, that involves you having to give up something, that could cost you dearly?  Will you respond with faith like Mary and say yes to God?

Consider again the words of Mary: “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”  If you applied these words to yourself, what do you think they would mean for you?



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