Scripture: Luke 1:5-25
Key verse: (12) 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him.
Reflection: In our super-sized, superlative-loving culture we took the word “whelmed” (it means to turn over, to cover, to bury) and added the word “over” so as to highlight just how buried and covered we are. We also added the word “under” to describe how little buried and full and covered we are. But however you wish to say it, the point today is that a faithful, old priest named Zechariah who had served the Lord his whole life had an encounter with the Lord that literally left him speechless. He was whelmed.
He served God but did not really trust God anymore. Too many unanswered prayers, too many days unfulfilled, too many years upon him, too few years ahead of him and in it all God had not come through in the way he and Elizabeth had hoped and deeply desired. God was perhaps a tradition, an idea, a habit, but God for Zechariah was definitely not anymore, a living presence, a power, a light, a friend.
And then God, through a messenger, showed up and turned Zechariah upside down and inside out (God whelmed him). When God does God’s thing we might imagine it takes us from bad to good, chaos to peace, weakness to strength (and many hope from rags to riches). Maybe so. It seems more likely, however, that when God interrupts our life, like Zechariah’s, we go from what is predictable to what is unknown, what is manageable to what is uncontrollable, what is hard to accept to what is hard to believe. With God we are invited not to fall so much as to leap. We are invited not to embrace the darkness but to trust that there is light within it. And all of that is hard.
Zechariah and Elizabeth (rare that we do important things on our own) embraced each other and their God and with fear and trembling, tenderness and trust, took up their part in the greatest story ever told.
Now it’s your turn.
Prayer: Holy God of precious peace, in these Advent days we enter the mystery of you-with-us. Fill us with joyful expectation and courageous trust. Prepare us for your presence among us and help us in ways we cannot help ourselves. Remind us not only do we need saving but that you have come as a Savior. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Author: Derek Macleod
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].