Monday, December 18, 2017:
In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.
Besides the miracle that is on the horizon, one of the things I notice most about this passage are the names. Luke wants to give a historical account, but he also wants the reader to see the contrasts: King Herod, the political power, serves as the backdrop to the story. The priest named Zechariah, a descendant of Abijah and his wife Elizabeth, whose descendant is Aaron, are barren, and so not valued highly in society. Aaron’s name would have reminded anyone familiar with Jewish history of the great Exodus-- the liberation of God’s people from Egypt, a miraculous visit from an angel, and God’s faithfulness to the covenant. Those with this lens would see that Luke’s Gospel presents a God seeking to fulfill the promises to God’s people, just like he did in Exodus.
The meaning behind the names are also enriching. Take, for example, Zechariah. His name means “The Lord Remembers” and Elizabeth can mean “The God of the Oath.” When placed together, they echo Luke’s story: “The Lord of the Oath Remembers.” So amid Roman imperialism, religious subjugation, and economic difficulty, God is at work with a miracle, remembering the barren and the old, those who have not produced as society expects.
This portion of the Gospel reminds us that we worship a God who does not forget us, no matter how unimportant we might seem to the likes of the King Herods of our world. We are loved not because of what we do, but because of who we are—the beloved children of God through Jesus Christ.
Prayer: God of our weary years, God of our many tears, help us to trust that you continue to be with us, and have not forgotten us. Remind us that you are at work in our lives and in our world, through miracles large and small, making all things new and beautiful. Encourage us with the hope that you’re about to do something in our hearts, in our relationships, in our jobs, in our finances, and in our troubles. We pray in Jesus’s name, Amen!
Creative Call-to-Action: Write down a miracle God has performed in your life. Where were you, what did you feel, what had you been praying for, who was there and who/what was affected? Share this story with someone who may not know about it. —Rev. Edwin Estevez