Expect the UnexpectedPosted: December 17, 2012
It is Advent season. Many know this, we are lighting a new candle each week at church. What many may not realize is that “advent” means “coming,” a time we celebrate the coming of God to earth–Emmanuel, God with us. This month in my small group, we have been looking at the Christmas story as told by Luke. A theme that I caught the first week and have continued seeing throughout has been “the unexpected.” Each of the last several weeks as we have looked at a different piece of the Christmas story, I keep seeing an element of the unexpected. I would like to take some time to examine pieces of the story and look at how unexpected they were and try to draw some lessons from them.
Luke opens his Gospel with the story of Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. Both are descendants of Aaron, Zechariah in the priestly division of Abijah, according to the first chapter of Luke. Elizabeth was “well along in years,” according to Zechariah, who referred to himself as “an old man.” Luke describes them both “righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly.” Even though they lived a blameless life, they were childless. Socially, being childless was a big embarrassment and cause for ridicule in that time.
As part of his priestly duties, Zechariah would travel with his division to Jerusalem about two times a year. While his division was serving in the Temple, one priest from the division would be chosen each morning and each evening to offer incense is The Holy Place. This tradition has been done twice daily since God gave the guidelines God gave to Moses (Leviticus 30:7 ff)–hundreds of years the same way. Twice each day a priest would enter, offer an incense offering, and return.
Zechariah has seen this happen for many years while his division served in Jerusalem, but never has he had the honor of being chosen, by lot, to enter The Holy Place. I imagine there was a small bit of Zechariah’s heart that was open to the possibility of being chosen that time to make the offering. But after so many years, it was just a slim hope. I doubt that he was expecting it, just open to the possibility. After years of disappointment of not being chosen, perhaps he had resigned in his own heart that he may never get the chance.
Zechariah observed the commands and decrees of God blamelessly. I imagine he felt a duty to travel to Jerusalem faithfully twice each year. He may have lost most of his hope that he would be given the honor of entering The Holy Place. But, he continued going and praying.
Have you worked for something your entire life and not gotten the opportunity? Has hope of that dream faded from your heart?