Series: Christmas Presence
Message: Early Presence
Preacher: Jenniffer Ogden
Reflection: J. Murdock
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Zan Long
Live Beyond: Vanessa Alarcon
Live Purpose: Don Pate
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Luke 1:57-66 in The Message (MSG). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: In Luke 1:59, we meet a family stuck at a crossroads between two powerful elements of faith: present Truth and tradition.
Nine months have passed since Zechariah prophesied that Elizabeth would become pregnant with their son, and now the baby is here, happy and healthy, in the arms of his parents. As is tradition, a baby boy is given his name at the time of his circumcision. Customarily, the name chosen for the boy is not discussed with others prior to the naming and is not used by the parents in referring to the boy until it is bestowed upon him at the circumcision. It is for this reason that the relatives in attendance for the baby’s bris are shocked to discover the baby isn’t taking the traditional name of his father.
Zechariah, meaning “Jehovah is remembered,” would be a brilliant name for this kid! The very utterance of his name would be a reminder of God’s intervention to create the opportunity for his birth. But no, this baby was gifted the name of John at conception.
John (Johanan), meaning the one whom Jehovah graciously bestows, is the only suitable name for this boy. And, in stark contrast to tradition, John’s parents follow the instructions of the angel Gabriel as given to him by God and deliver present Truth to the world in the form of a name. It’s a brave move to buck the system in their position. They are already heavily scrutinized for the way in which Elizabeth became pregnant and Zechariah’s suspicious silence through the entire endeavor. But Elizabeth speaks for her husband and declares the child “bestowed by the Lord.”
Present Truth is a difficult concept to comprehend when placed in contrast to tradition. Tradition is comfortable for those who have lived within its confines long enough to make its parameters part of their spiritual practices. Present Truth arrives to tradition as a gate to those fences that were once iron clad and impenetrable. But when Present Truth arrives as a message from God, the old standards must fall away in order to make space for new frontiers of faith outside the scope of the previous vantage point. To decide to incorporate a new revelation into our spirituality is to admit that tradition is no longer sufficient, as we once believed. For Elizabeth, it meant choosing to follow God rather than her Jewish lineage. But now, because of her bravery, her entire family line was forever changed for the better.
There she stood, miracle child in hand eight days after his birth, faced with a choice at the crossroads of history. To choose tradition would be so very simple. Instead, under great pressure from every angle, Elizabeth chose to put her trust in the word of God by speaking her truth. To do so, she utilized a simple word that is so very difficult to utter when under the microscope of cultural and social expectations. “No.”
Recalibrate: Where might God be calling you to a Present Truth that would otherwise be covered by the traditions of your religion, faith, or well-worn habits? What might following that Truth do in your life were you to decide to break from tradition and go in the new direction God is calling you?
Respond: Pray today that God’s Truth becomes evident in your life so you can be set free from the traditions holding you back from living a life in full view of God’s will.
Research: Read Expanding Our Understanding of Present Truth.
Remember: “All who heard this news were astonished and wondered, “If a miracle brought His birth, what on earth will this child become? Clearly, God’s presence is upon this child in a powerful way” (Luke 1:66, TPT).
J. Murdock is associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, where he focuses on youth and young adult ministry.
Has your little one discovered the power of the words Yes and No? Yes, meaning “in agreement with” and No meaning “definitely not!” Our granddaughter is definite on her Nos. In fact, her phrasing is, “No way!” I love it when a child knows what they want or do not want. Hey, I love it when a grown up knows what they want or do not want. What are we prepared to do to stand by our yes or our nos? Elizabeth said yes to God’s plan for her family’s life. Know that God has a plan for your family too.
Have you ever surprised someone? Elizabeth did in the story this week when she named her baby boy John. Everyone thought the baby would be named after his dad, Zechariah. This baby had been named by the angel Gabriel and Elizabeth did as he said. So the baby was named John. I am named after my great-grandmother. See if you can find out why you have the name you do? Know that whatever your name is, Jesus knows it and He loves you more than anything.
Maybe you’ve heard these words: “You have one job!” I know I have. When you tell someone they have one job, it’s usually because without them doing that one job, you can’t complete what you want or need to do. Examples of one job could be holding the door open so your mom can carry in the groceries.
In this story, one of the few things Elizabeth and Zechariah had to do was name their son John. The name John is a Hebrew name that means “Jehovah has been gracious.” When they went to the temple, others tried to change John’s name to name him after Zechariah. Right away, Elizabeth said no. She knew that part of her job was to make sure to make sure her baby was named John. Has anyone ever asked you to do something? If you knew that task came from God, would you be more or less willing to make sure you did it?
Do you like your name? As I observed kids through my years of teaching it felt like a lot of girls didn’t like their names whereas most of the boys seemed to not even think about it much. Have you ever asked your parents how they settled on your name? Have they ever told you what other names they considered? What if you had been born the other gender? My wife and I went through naming twice; it ended up being two sons. With both we took our time settling on the first and middle names. To this day I don’t know how my sons feel about their names for we never discussed it. In the section of the story we are considering this week this issue is moot, for Zechariah and Elizabeth had no choice in the matter. The angel had mandated “John” and it wasn’t until the old man ratified the command of the angel that he had his voice restored. “His name is John.” “Is.” It already is in place, I’m not deciding. That’s how the old couple revealed their last degree of willingness to God’s plan. “John.” Done deal.
Zan Long is GRC director for faith development for ages 0-17. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Vanessa Alarcon is a licensed clinical social worker who focuses on addiction treatment in Denver, Colorado. She also serves as the Faith Engagement Pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado.
Don Pate is “retired” in Tennessee after decades of teaching and pastoring but is still active in speaking and creating for the Kingdom.