Luke 1:5-25

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. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’

Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.’ The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.’

 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

 After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, ‘This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.’ Luke 1:5-25

‘Tis the season for childrens’ Christmas programs. Not just the standards that are broadcast on television but the classics that will happen in church basements, church gyms, day care centers, and Christian schools. Shepherds and sheep, wiseguys and angels, the angelic choir, Mary and Joseph, everyone will get a part.

But no one will play Zechariah, Elizabeth, or the crowd of people praying outside of the temple and that is a bit of a shame. God found roles for lots of people as God prepared the way for Jesus. So this morning you got to read their story again.

The angel tells Zechariah that he and Elizabeth are about to have a baby boy. Then he describes what that child will do. “He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’” 

He will “turn the hearts of parents to their childen.” In every age, asking what is best for children is a pretty good guide to what is best for everyone. Adults need to be regularly reminded of that and willing to act on it.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, again and again you come to us, preparing our hearts for those moments when you once again become more real than real in our lives. Bless children and families who will lead us through the Christmas story once again this year. Turn us back around to what really matters, that our hearts are prepared to receive you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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