This part of the Christmas story is only found in Luke’s gospel, and his source must have been Mary, the mother of Jesus. In reading it again, it struck me that despite Zechariah seeing an angel standing before him, and then speaking directly to him, he didn’t believe the words he heard. In case you might think I’m being unfair on Zechariah, because it would indeed have taken a miracle for his wife Elizabeth to conceive, just think of Mary and Joseph. Mary had the same angel appear to her, and with an even more amazing promise – she, a virgin, would conceive God’s own son, yet she believed. And Joseph, to whom she was betrothed, only had a dream to go on to convince him to marry Mary, yet he did.
Of the three individuals, Zechariah (a priest of many year standing), Mary (a young girl) and Joseph (a carpenter), who would you have felt most likely to believe what they had been told? I would have chosen Zechariah the priest every time, yet he didn’t or couldn’t believe God’s word to him.
This made me ponder on a few things I’d like to share with you. Firstly, being a follower of God for many years doesn’t mean we have greater faith to believe the things we read in His word than a more recent believer – does familiarity breed complacency (rather than contempt!)? Secondly, God takes His word very seriously indeed. Because of the doubt or unbelief in Zechariah’s heart he was struck dumb until his promised son (John) arrived. Since God takes His word that seriously, shouldn’t we do the same? But, God’s word is not just contained in the messages to Zechariah, Mary and Joseph. The Bible is God’s word and contains many precious promises, words of encouragement, challenge, warning and blessing. Am I, or are you, guilty of doubting them? Has that ‘weed of doubt’ crept into our Christian lives unnoticed? As we read God’s word do we hold on to the truth of each and every one of them, or are we saying in our hearts “How can I be sure?”
Prayer: Dear Lord. I am truly sorry for doubting Your precious word to me. If any ‘weed of doubt’ or unbelief has crept into my life then I choose to ask You now to dig it out. I want nothing to do with it! Your word is truth to me because You are the way, the truth and the life. Let my focus be clear and my faith in You be fixed and firm this Christmas time. Amen.
"Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son … Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel said to him ... “I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time”."
Luke 1: 11-12 & 18-20, NIV
Philip Asselin is on the associate ministry and teaching teams with Glyndley Manor. He, and his wife Gillian, attended the second Healing Retreat at Glyndley Manor in 1992, and were greatly helped. They have two grown up children and one grandson, plus a step-granddaughter (both in Canada).
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