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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, December 1, 2019  

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 1:5–13

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years. Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. (NRSV)

To everything there is a season, says the author of Ecclesiastes. Zechariah and Elizabeth, the unsuspecting expectant parents of John the Baptist, know this well. Zechariah has his priestly vocation, and Elizabeth has her priestly heritage going back to Moses’ brother Aaron. Living blameless lives devoted to Torah, they are well acquainted with the religious traditions and rituals that sustained the life of a covenant people. “”Part of that faithful service was the season of pilgrimage, in which Zechariah made a journey to the temple in Jerusalem to carry out sacred duties of incense offering. For priests like Zechariah, sometimes doing the generational work of vital but ordinary service led to the perk of a special opportunity in the temple.

In a surprising way, Zechariah encounters God and becomes the recipient of God’s sacred promises in the course of the routine work of worship. It’s as if Zechariah had an epiphany in the third verse of the opening hymn or a revelation while carrying the Bible to the lectern or a moment of grace ushering a visitor to their seat. Have you ever experienced the profound grace of God in an ordinary moment of worship? Have you ever felt God’s assurance in the routine work of everyday life?

The story of Zechariah’s encounter is about our openness to God’s work in every season of our lives and through every good endeavor in which we engage. It is an acknowledgement that God shows up when we least expect it. While it may feel unsettling or even terrifying at first, such encounters remind us that life is fused with profundity. The Holy One has a potential message to share with us whether we are , talking with someone on the other side of a cash register or smiling at a stranger on the street. All that is required is that, like Zechariah, we watch for the Spirit’s presence in those moments and seasons.

Come to me, O God. Make me aware of your extraordinary presence in the ordinary and everyday of this life and world. Whether worshiping, working, playing, or resting, help me to be open to your way and promises. Amen.

Written by Joseph L. Morrow, Minister for Evangelism

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