Intention: We pray for a faith-filled and transforming Christmastime for our world, one that fills it with peace, justice, and good will toward all.
Today’s Gospel | Luke 1:5-25
In the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah; his wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years.
Once when he was serving as priest in his division’s turn before God, according to the practice of the priestly service, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense. Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside at the hour of the incense offering, the angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense. Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.
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. He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.”
Then Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel said to him in reply, “I am Gabriel, who stands before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.” Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He was gesturing to them but remained mute.
Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home. After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months, saying, “So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others.”
A Reflection for the Fourth Monday of Advent
For many in the world, times that are held to be holy on the calendar are times when it is especially possible that amazing things, even miracles, will happen. For Christians, Advent is one such time. We marvel at God’s ability to do the impossible as he brings joy and fulfillment into even the most barren and desperate lives. However, holy days such as these are not only reminders of what God has done for us, but also of what he has called us to do. They are about recognizing that being true to our relationship with God is not possible without being true to what he has given to us. There is a purpose to these incredible gifts, as the works of God are meant both to be pondered and to be practiced. It is not enough to remember God’s goodness; we must somehow become it. As Marcus Aurelius wrote, “Don’t go on discussing what a good person should be. Just be one.” The time of Advent is a time to hear in its wonders God urging us to bring to others and to our world what he so lovingly brought to us.
Eternal Father, as we await the celebration of the day when your Son was born, how strange it is that, at the same time, we can overlook his teachings and his power in our daily lives. We sing songs of praise, yet we compromise his word. We appeal to his compassion and healing, yet do not extend or wish the same for others. Help us in this Advent to finally understand that the meaning of our redemption lies in the changing of our hearts and the opening of our lives so that we can build your Kingdom.