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 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: As I am writing this, we are in the wake of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday advertisements littered across the Internet, my inbox, and every social media platform. Naturally, thoughts begin to turn to the items that will make our wish lists this Christmas. I purchased my first commuter bike last year, and now I spend more time than I should researching all the parts, components, and accessories that will take my ride to the next level. With that comes the ever expanding Amazon wish list that holds all my desired trinkets. And seeing as I am a salaried pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, money is no object and I have the ability to spend my paychecks on luxurious things with great frequency! (Is the sarcasm coming through clearly?)
Knowing that funds around the holidays can be notoriously low, we can have the tendency to build a Venn diagram in our heads that allows us to list the things we want (bike parts) in one circle, the stuff we need (rent, groceries, gas, etc.) in the other circle, and in the thin little sliver that overlaps the two categories resides the list of the things that fall into both categories (gym membership fees and Chipotle burritos). While it is simple to desire the fun stuff, the list of needs must be cared for first. Whatever is left when we’re finished goes back on the wish list to Santa (lots of sarcasm today).
Luke 1:62 finds us watching over the shoulder of Zechariah as he draws his own wants/needs Venn diagram on a tablet. Clearly, this baby will be his one and only son that he will care for as his own. This means his family line stems to one singular point from his bloodline. In order to pass along the family name he was bequeathed by his father, he would want to name his son Zechariah. But there is that other side of the circles that reads, “God said you are to name him John.” To keep the analogy afloat, if his faith was converted to currency and his lists given a numerical value, his entire paycheck would be spent on one or the other. With no wiggle room to haggle the price (maybe John could be his middle name?) Zechariah has to choose between his wants and needs as a father, a husband, a priest, and a believer in the Lord’s work in this world.
Zechariah chooses the needs of the world over the wants of his fatherhood dreams. There, on the tablet, Zechariah writes the Good News given to him by God and begins the Gospel narrative of his son. “His name is John”
Recalibrate: What might God be calling you to prioritize in your life this season? How might placing the things you need above the things you want change the way you think about the coming new year?
Respond: Pray that God will give you the courage to place the things you want and need into His hands, knowing that He has your best interests in mind as He works His will into your future by guiding your steps in the present.
Research: Read Five Ways to Prioritize Your Spiritual Growth.
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.
Last weekend, our daughter went away for a day or so to catch up with some friends from college. That meant our granddaughter Zoe was home with her dad for the weekend. He did a great job and Zoe was his little shadow. She wouldn't let him out of her sight. Now that Mum is home, Zoe is not letting her out of her sight. Are your children the same? Elizabeth and Zechariah experienced the presence of God through the angel Gabriel and even though Zechariah doubted it was possible, by the time John arrived there was no question that the couple would listen and do what the angel had told them to do—even though there was peer pressure to do something else. The presence of God is something that once experienced you never want to be apart from. Our children can teach us this. Cling to the one you love the most and let that one be Jesus.
Get yourself a pencil and some paper and write your name down the left hand side like this:
Then I want you to write next to the letters good stuff about yourself. Like J: “I like to jump over things on my bike.” Use the letters of your name to help you choose what to write. Do the same for Jesus and add in all that He is to you.
So let’s read Luke 1:62-64. Elizabeth has just told the people at the temple that she and Zechariah are going to name their son John. Now you would think that after Elizabeth explained this they would listen to her, but they didn’t. They wanted to check with Zechariah to see if that was actually what he wanted to call his son. Remember, Zechariah still can’t talk at this point. Although his son had been born, he hadn’t been given his voice back. But as soon as he wrote down the name “John,” his voice was back! God honored his faithfulness. He did complete his one job for God.
Luke 1 tells us that Zechariah could not break his silence, just as the angel had told him he would not be able to. So, on that fateful day when the newborn was screaming his lungs out in the back room Zechariah sat outside and picked up the parchment and quill: “His name is John.” Zechariah wrote and God responded. Immediately, he could speak—and speak he did! If you want to read something majestic and scary and amazing go back to Luke 1:67-79 and let the old priest’s words bathe over you. This is excellent literature. This is praise and prophecy and poetry. God released the man’s tongue and there’s no limit to what can be accomplished when God releases and empowers. (I’m stating that’s true for you, too! Really!)
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.