Day 8: Second Sunday of Advent
“But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old…Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion ‘The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.’” (Luke 1:7, 24-25)
At the very beginning of Luke’s Gospel, we encounter Zechariah and Elizabeth, an older Jewish couple living during Herod’s reign in Judea. Of the few things we are told about them, Luke mentions that they live righteous lives before God but also that they have no children. Why does Luke tell us this? Certainly, it is at least to help us understand, in the midst of Zechariah fulfilling his priestly duties in the Jerusalem Temple, the significance of the angel Gabriel’s message of an unexpected miracle baby given to them in their later years. Perhaps it is also serves to remind us that righteous people do not always get what they desire. That theme lingers throughout the Bible from the book of Job through the Psalms and into the New Testament. Along with that, it is likely that Luke wants to emphasize how God often reveals Himself in a special way to those who have something missing from their lives. In fact, that is a special theme in the Gospel of Luke: God is close to those who seem on the outside, who carry a wound, or who only have the smallest thread of hope to which they cling.
In the midst of all the grand things God does in Scripture, and in the midst of the story God is writing in the human history, sometimes we may wonder if as human beings we remain too insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Even if we believe in God, we may wonder if we are simply hidden, unnoticed beings before the Divine Majesty.
The story of Elizabeth interrupts that strain of thinking like a hurricane. An angelic messenger blows in from the presence of God to say that hidden prayers have been heard and that God will indeed bring about their fiercest hopes for a child. Not only that, but the wild winds of the message will blow through human history as this miracle baby, John the Baptist, will come in the same untamable power of Elijah the prophet. He will speak words of hope to all people as a forerunner of the promised Messiah. You cannot cage that wind and, as it blows, Elizabeth sees the sails of her life refilled with the billowing winds of hope.
During Advent, Elizabeth’s story reminds us that the coming of Jesus brings hope to us. Jesus brings a “living hope” (1 Peter 1:3) that serves as “an anchor for the soul, rm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19). As we take the journey of Advent, reminded that God sees us and God enters into our world through Jesus Christ, may the sails of our lives be refilled again with the wild winds of living hope through Christ Jesus.
- What is an area of your life where you are “clinging to a thread of hope” about what God can do?
- How do you think you can “feed” the hope God has brought to you to increase your experience of it?
A Prayer for the second Sunday of Advent (from the Revised Common Lectionary):
God of hope, you call us home from the exile of selsh oppression
to the freedom of justice, the balm of healing, and the joy of sharing.
Make us strong to join you in your holy work,
as friends of strangers and victims,
companions of those whom others shun,
and as the happiness of those whose hearts are broken.
We make our prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Use these “Family Talk” sections each week with younger children
I hope I’m in my friend’s class this year! I hope I make the team! I hope I get to have a sleepover for my birthday this year! Sometimes, we don’t have to wait too long to see if the thing we’re hoping for really happens. But, have you ever hoped for something for so long that you’ve given up hoping for it at all?
That’s what it was like for a woman in the Bible named Elizabeth. She and her husband Zechariah, loved God with their whole hearts and lived to please him. They hoped for a baby, but years passed, and still . . . no baby.
Then, one day, an angel showed up! The angel Gabriel told Elizabeth that God had heard her prayers, and that, even though she was way older than most moms, God would bless her with a baby of her own! But that’s not the only lesson of hope in Elizabeth’s story. That miracle baby would grow up to be “John the Baptist.” John would bring hope to people because he would bring them to Jesus—who IS our hope.
When we understand, like John did, that Jesus was sent to rescue us from sin and to give us a full and happy life, we can have hope, too. The Bible calls this kind of a hope an “anchor for the soul”—a sure, and steady force. We don’t have to wait and “wish” for Jesus to make things right—we can know that He is holding us steady, and working all things for our good.