Council of Elders Advent Reflections
by Rev. Elder Dr. Candace R. Shultis

Second Sunday of Advent

Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent – 9 December 2018

Luke’s Gospel contains an interesting story about Zechariah and the birth of his son
John. (Luke 1: 5-23; 57-80). While serving at the Temple in Jerusalem the angel Gabriel appeared and told him that despite his age and the age of his wife Elizabeth, they were to have a son and were to name him John. Because Zechariah found this news to be unbelievable, he was made mute, unable to speak until what was prophesied came to be. Elizabeth did conceive and did bear a son. When they came to have him circumcised, Elizabeth declared that his name would be John. Not believing her, those present asked Zechariah and he wrote on a tablet that his name was John. Zechariah was now able to speak and gave his own prophesy for what would become of John: that he would be the forerunner of One who would give knowledge of salvation, would forgive sins, would be light to those who sit in night and who would guide people’s feet in the way of peace.

I wonder if we, too, sometimes find the Good News of the Gospel unbelievable? Or are we afraid of what others might think if we go about proclaiming salvation, forgiveness, light and peace? The season of Advent is about getting ready for the greatest gift ever given. Maybe it’s also about finding our own voice of prophesy or proclamation. Do we believe that we are also called to be forerunners who point others to Jesus?

The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of
Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s
commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was
not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before
God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the
temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled
with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of
Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” 19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 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.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so
long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home.

The Birth of John the Baptist
57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her
neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they
shared her joy.

59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”

61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the
child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His
name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he
began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
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