But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God." - Luke 1
We have come to the Second Part of Advent and are treated to the great stories which describe the story of our salvation. The first reading, from the Book of Judges, tells the marvelous story of Samson's birth. Samson was one of the Judges God chose to help his people at the time of their domination by the Philistines. His father - Manoah - and his mother - unnamed - were praying for a child. The story of how Manoah first doubted the promise of an angel, before the promise was fulfilled. This reminds us of the story of Zechariah's doubt.
The grace offered me this Advent is to trust the promises of our God, especially the promise of hope in the midst of darkness and the gloom that surround us - the first reading for Midnight Mass: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as people make merry when dividing spoils." Isaiah 9
Why do I/we doubt? Because there is just so much dark stuff out there. There is so much evidence of bad people doing bad things. There is such a tendency in our world to think of my needs first, and to ignore the great suffering and sorrow of others, and this attitude is becoming contagious.
Zechariah could speak again, when he acknowleged his belief in the promise. He confirmed the name given to the promised child, "his name is John." The name "John" means "God is gracious." When I/we can say "God is gracious," then I/we can speak again. The ability to speak, live, act, witness a hope in God's fidelity to us starts with our acknowledging that "God is gracious."
That's our Advent journey - to say in my heart and out loud: "I believe that you are and will be gracious, for I believe you love me and have come to set us free from the power of sin and death. The bigness of your promise is hidden in the mystery of the littleness of your coming."
Dear Lord, give me the grace these very busy days to trust in your love and mercy. Give me hope. Open my heart and my eyes to see your goodness, in the midst of the gloom around me. Each day this week, let me experience being on a journey of expectant hope in you. Soften my heart with your love that I may be a source of comfort and joy for those around me who need comforting and a renewed joy in your fidelity.
Praying with our Imaginations: Elizabeth Remembers
Praying with our Imaginations: Contemplating the Visitation with Zechariah
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