Advent Talks from The Gospel Of Luke.
3rd December 2017 1st in Advent
Story 1 – Lk.1:5-25
Old Man in the Temple/ Zechariah
The story Luke tells is this: that the long story of the Creator, Covenant God for Israel and the World has reached its unexpected climax. With the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, God is back and back for good. Here’s how one poet; a Church of England clergyman, Malcolm Guite, crystallises Luke’s Gospel:
His Gospel is itself a living creature,
A ground and glory round the throne of God,
Where earth and heaven breathe through human nature
And One upon the throne sees it is good.
Luke is the living pillar of our healing,
A lowly ox, the servant of the four,
We turn his page to find his face revealing
The wonder and the welcome of the poor.
He breathes good news to all who bear a burden,
Good news to all who turn and try again,
The meek rejoice and prodigals find pardon,
A lost thief reaches paradise through pain,
The voiceless find their voice in every word
And, with our Lady, magnify the Lord.
Luke’s ‘Infancy Narrative’ comprises ten carefully crafted stories. Not only do these provide a key to understanding each of the stories in their own right, together they introduce the much larger story that Luke tells right through to the end of Acts.
The first half of the ten stories: responding to God’s announcement
The second half of the ten stories: understanding the implications of what has happened
By staying true to Luke’s structure and intentions, we’re going to reflect on and respond to the story that is so familiar yet ever new. Luke introduces us to characters whose varied responses to God’s appearing challenge us to review and revise our own responses to Him. This is Christmas according to Luke.
This morning we reflect on the first story.
Zechariah was a priest at the top of his game, enjoying the high watermark of his calling. He was representing God’s people in the holiest place on the greatest day of the year. By vocation, training and office he ought to have been primed to respond appropriately when God showed up. He had no difficulty recognising the angel for who he was. He had no difficulty hearing and understanding the message communicated. His problem was more profound: surrounded with the trappings of holiness, his life-shaped mindset was nevertheless firmly fixed on the natural processes of decay – “My wife and I are too old for this!”
Even though they had wanted a child all their lives; even though there was no obvious theological explanation for their childlessness (they were devout people), when their hopes came true – for nothing is impossible for God – Zechariah nearly blew it! His biology overtook his theology.
For a time, God made sure he couldn’t complete his official duties as priest for the people. God made sure that Zechariah couldn’t pronounce the standard blessing over them. They would remain unblessed…yet more blessed than they could dare imagine.
Have you become so accustomed to handling holy things over so many years that you have lost faith in the possibility of God turning up and turning your world upside down; giving you the vocation of a person half your age that will bless the people?
This Advent prepare yourself for God to turn up. Ready yourself to respond to the most unlikely commissioning of your life. Respond to it as your royal-priestly blessing upon the people you meet and within the community to which God calls you.