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Advent blog: Birth announcements

December 13, 2015

  As we head through the Advent season headlong towards Christmas, we hear familiar stories on the way.
It has occurred to that we read of two birth announcements – not in the sense of the newspaper classified family notices, but where 2 parents are told that a baby is on its way. Well on his way actually in both cases.
And they don’t learn from a pregnancy testing kit from Boots, but from an angel.
Not just any angel, but Gabriel.
First Zechariah, an ageing priest. A devout God-fearing man. His wife Elizabeth and he have the cultural stigma of no children. As he is chosen to make the annual sacrifice he comes face to face with Gabriel. Yes this elderly couple are going to have a son.
“You have prayed for a son and now God is answering. You are not just going to have a son but you will make a profit.”
Sorry, I mean prophet.
Zechariah’s doubt leaves him dumbstruck. It is Zechariah who we later discover invented Pictionary.
A distant cousin of Elizabeth is a young lady called Mary. God has noticed her faith too, but she’s not looking for a baby. She’s not even married yet. Although that’s all in hand. Joseph is the one for her.
It’s Gabriel who brings the news again.
Mary inevitably has questions but is ready to do what God calls her to do.
There is much rejoicing for Liz and Mary, but did they have any idea what they were in for, quite apart from the inevitable nodding and winking reaction to Mary’s so-called virgin birth!
Maybe you’re looking forward to such a happy event. A new life arriving in the family. Even now you imagine what your child might be. Or you remember what your hopes were for your children as they grew up.
John the Baptist would dress and eat weirdly. He would live in the desert baptising people. He would rant at religious people. He would tell the King what he thought about his immoral behaviour and he would be beheaded at the request of the king’s step daughter. Early thirties. Not much of a life?
Jesus would have his followers, would work his miracles, and alienate many people. Mary and the family would struggle to understand him, would think he’d lost it on occasion. And Mary would stand before a cross, seeing her promised son nailed to a cross like a common criminal. Dead in his early thirties.
So much expectation.
2 lives. Not much to show for all the fanfare, all the hope, all the joy of miraculous parenthood.
John the man who came to pave the way for Jesus, the Lamb of God, who in turn came to take away the sins of the world. Jesus was born to die. Neither were destined for prosperity and long life.
But John was called by God.
And in Jesus God stepped into this world to be one of us.
Maybe the lives that unfolded would never have been what their parents hoped for, but were part of God’s plan to rescue us.
God asked a lot of Zechariah and Elizabeth and Joseph and Mary. There was much joy and huge pain.
But they were used by God in their quiet way.
What is God asking you and I to do? For joy and pain? For better and worse? But ultimately for the good of our families, our world?
But don’t be put off by that short life, because 2,000 years later the risen Jesus is still very much alive and is still changing lives as the testimonies of 4 people in church this morning vividly illustrated!

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From → Christianity

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