I know there might not seem to be much of a connection between Ezekiel’s temple and Christmas, but as I sat here on Christmas Eve laboring through several chapters of tedious descriptions of temple dimensions, I stopped to think about what the significance of this would have been to Israel. At this time they were captive in Babylon and Solomon’s temple had very likely already been destroyed. The temple was so connected to God‘s presence that its destruction would have seemed like the removal of God from the life of the nation. Captive in a foreign land with nothing left of the life they used to know, it must have seemed hopeless. But into this darkness God spoke – I will again be in your midst.
Oh, how the Christmas bells began ringing in my heart!! 🔔
Into a dark and captive world, bound by sin and with no hope —- He has come! Emmanuel, God with us.
Oh rejoice today in what God has done! Peace on earth, goodwill to men.
Never was a more tremendous announcement made to a human than the one Mary received from the angel.
“Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1:30-33
Israel of that day lived in expectation of the appearance of the Messiah. Based on the prophecies of Jeremiah, they did the math and knew that it was soon. Jewish girls desired the honor of being the mother of the Messiah. Mary was certainly no different.
How her heart must have leapt to know that she was the chosen one. Her greeting to Elizabeth in Luke 1:46-55 is an exaltation of the power and might of God like few others, as she anticipates the birth of the promised child in her womb.
Reading the words of the angel to Mary, one thing that is glaringly obvious is that there is no mention of the cross. The throne, yes. The kingdom, yes. But not the cross. How difficult would it have been for Mary to raise her son to adulthood, caring for Him, teaching Him, loving Him, knowing that He was destined for death? Who among us could bear such a burden year after year?
Sometimes we wonder why God doesn’t tell us certain things. We find ourselves in difficult circumstances and we wonder why God let us be caught off guard. Surely He knew. Surely He could have told us. But He didn’t. Why? We wonder and pray about the future, asking God to give us some insight. But frequently, He doesn’t.
Just like Mary, I know the end. One day I will stand before Jesus, forgiven and accepted, to spend eternity with Him. But the stuff between now and then, these things are a mystery to me. I sometimes think it would be easier if I knew what was ahead for me. But maybe it wouldn’t. It must be enough to know that God knows.
Because He knows the end from the beginning, and all the stuff in the middle, but He doesn’t tell it all.
Sometimes things in the Bible make me laugh. This is one of them.
And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” Luke 1:18
Zacharias has just been given the best imaginable news by an angel. His response is to ask for a sign. Zacharias! That was an angel talking to you. Seems like that might be a good enough sign.
So unbelieving Zacharias was made mute (and apparently deaf) when he doubted the message of the angel regarding the birth of a son.
Imagine being his age, after so many childless years, to finally be counting down the days until the birth of your son. How many times during those months did he look at Elizabeth’s swollen belly and long to lift his voice in praise? Or to laugh with her when the baby kicked? Or to speak of the words the angel had told him? Each time was a reminder of his doubt. Is it any surprise then, that by the time John was born Zacharias was fully convinced of what the angel had told him and his first words after having his speech restored was this eruption of praise:
“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited and redeemed His people,
And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of His servant David,
As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets,
Who have been since the world began,
That we should be saved from our enemies
And from the hand of all who hate us,
To perform the mercy promised to our fathers
And to remember His holy covenant,
The oath which He swore to our father Abraham:
To grant us that we,
Being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
To give knowledge of salvation to His people
By the remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Let us not be muted out through unbelief, but continually lift our voices in praise to the God who is faithful to perform that which He has promised.
“And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.” Luke 1:6-7
There are not many people that the Scriptures name as righteous, but Zacharias and Elizabeth are two of them. They were obedient followers of the Lord, blameless. They were doing all the right things. And yet, they still lacked what was considered the most precious blessing attainable – an heir.
Jewish society of their day looked at barrenness as a sign of God’s displeasure. How painful it must have been for them, year after year, to watch neighbors, friends and family members have children while they remained childless. I wonder if Elizabeth felt ashamed. I wonder if they ever felt that God didn’t see their pain, or didn’t care.
Regardless, they continued to serve Him, doing all the right things even though life had seemed to treat them very unfairly. And all this time they had no idea the privilege God was waiting to confer upon them. Had they known they would be the parents of the forerunner of the Christ, I am certain they would have been able to wait contentedly for the appointed time, serving God faithfully. But they didn’t know….and they still served Him faithfully.
In a day when most people feel entitled to certain things if we are serving God, it would do us good to reflect upon the example of Zacharias and Elizabeth. Even when the life they expected was not granted, and even when they did all the right things and nothing changed, they continued to serve Him.
Will we remain faithful when our expectations are not met, when our desires are not granted, when our longings go unfulfilled? We must determine in our hearts that we will, for this is the way of the true servants of the Lord.