Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Birth of John

Chuckle: "I got called back to a church which I didn't expect. I asked one of the deacons why. He said, 'We didn't want no preacher no how and you were the nearest no preacher we could get.' "
Quote: "The less I pray, the harder it gets; the more I pray, the better it goes." --Martin Luther

"Now it was time for Elizabeth's baby to be born, and it was a boy. The word spread quickly to her neighbors and relatives that the Lord had been very kind to her, and everyone rejoiced with her" (Luke 1:57-58 NLT).
John, the Baptist, was to be God's voice to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of the long-awaited Messiah. Elizabeth was well past the child-bearing age, but God, through the angel Gabriel, had promised her and Zechariah a son. And, of course, Mary had been told by the angel Gabriel that she would conceive by the Holy Spirit and bear a Son who would save the people from their sins. "When the baby was eight days old, all the relatives and friends came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. But Elizabeth said, 'No! His name is John!' " (vv. 59-60).
At the time of John's and Jesus' birth, the circumcision ceremony was an important event in the life of every Jewish baby boy. During the ceremony, the people rejoiced with friends and family as the baby became part of God's covenant with his people. Passing family names down from one generation to the next was also extremely important in Jewish families. Thus everyone expected his name to be Zechariah, and were surprised by his being named John. But you may recall that the angel Gabriel had told Zechariah that the baby's name would be John (Luke 1:13).
In answer to their prayers, Gabriel had appeared to Zechariah to inform him that he and Elizabeth would have a son, even in their old age. He also told him the son's name would be John. Zechariah was skeptical that such a thing would happen. Because of his unbelief, the angel told him he would be unable to speak until after the baby was born (Luke 1:19-20). After months of silence, Zechariah praised God with his first words once his speech was restored. "So they asked the baby's father (Zechariah), communicating to him by making gestures. He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone's surprise he wrote, 'His name is John!' Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God"
(vv. 61-64).
Zechariah understood the mission of his son, John because Gabriel had explained to him that "He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah, the prophet of old. He will precede the coming of the Lord, preparing the people for his arrival" (Luke 1:17). What an absolutely amazing sequence of events unfolded as the time approached for the birth of our Lord. One cannot read the story of John's birth, and that of Jesus, without doing as Zechariah did -- praising God from the very core of our being. As we focus on the Christmas story in 2016, rejoicing should be the reaction of all of us whose lives have been transformed by faith in the "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" -- the Babe of Bethlehem.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

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