Luke 1:11-17 (CEV)
11 All at once an angel from the Lord appeared to Zechariah at the right side of the altar. 12 Zechariah was confused and afraid when he saw the angel. 13 But the angel told him: Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayers. Your wife Elizabeth will have a son, and you must name him John. 14 His birth will make you very happy, and many people will be glad. 15 Your son will be a great servant of the Lord. He must never drink wine or beer, and the power of the Holy Spirit will be with him from the time he is born.
16 John will lead many people in Israel to turn back to the Lord their God. 17 He will go ahead of the Lord with the same power and spirit that Elijah had. And because of John, parents will be more thoughtful of their children. And people who now disobey God will begin to think as they ought to. That is how John will get people ready for the Lord.
This is a fascinating passage to me. Here we have a seasoned, veteran priest named Zechariah. He is from the priestly order, and his wife was from the line of Levites, a descendant of Aaron (Moses’s brother). They are both steeped in this heritage of serving God, interceding on behalf of the people with God, offering sacrifices and leading the people in worship. But when the angel of the Lord appeared, Zechariah was scared to death! Maybe we serve so much in these roles we are surprised and scared when God’s presence is revealed?!
The angel tells Zechariah he is going to have a son, an answer to his prayers, but this is no ordinary son. This will be the prophet who comes to make way for the Messiah to be born. His name will be John, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit from even before his actual birth.
But did you catch what John’s preaching and proclamation will deliver? The proclamation is that “parents will be more thoughtful of their children. And people who now disobey God will begin to think as they ought to.” What an interesting thing, as the NRSV translation states it “to turn the hearts of the parents to their children.” The reference comes from the last words of the Old Testament, from Malachi 4:6, “He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.” The idea is that God will send another “Elijah” (greatest of the Old Testament prophets), before he sends the Messiah. The Elijah (John) will lead the people to repentance, envisioned to involve all generations within families, ending the division caused by sin in earlier eras that existed from generation to generation.
The last phrase from this translation above says it well, “And people who now disobey God will begin to think as they ought to.” The first step in changing wrong behavior is to recognize that it is wrong, and realize there is a better way. I am hoping that through this Advent Conspiracy series we will see how wrong our observance of Christmas has become, and how important it is to change it. Are you willing to hear the prophetic word that over-spending and over-indulgence in stuff is never going to bring us the presence of God?