Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Praying for you, your family, your community, and the rest of the world. Right now, the whole world is suffering because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Let’s pray together to God, Our Ever-Loving Father, for His mercy and protection on all. Also, pray for God’s healing on those who are infected by the Coronavirus. We all believe God’s grace and love rest on all who look upon Him every moment with faith in Him.
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)
When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Aaron was the first priest when Moses led out the Israelites from Egypt, where they were slaves for 400 years.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. However, they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and they were both very old.
One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.
While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said,
“Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” (Luke 1:11b-17)
Zechariah said to the angel,
“How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” (Luke 1:18b)
Then the angel said,
“I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.” (Luke 1:19b-20)
Gabriel, the angel of God, brought the good news of the birth of John the Baptist, who would prepare the way for the Lord, Jesus Christ, Our Savior, to come. Zachariah heard this good news, but he could not believe it because he was old and his wife was old and barren throughout their marriage.
It is not easy to believe the good news if we were there instead of Zachariah. God’s message is not of this world, but of His Kingdom in Heaven, where all things are new, and His glory will be forever without tears, pains, hardships such as the current on-going COVID-19 pandemic and the sufferings that came with the pandemic. Many died and lost the loved ones, not even getting near the loved ones dying from COVID-19. The current pains are indescribable. Many also lost jobs while just hoping to have better days to come with new job opportunities. The entire world, without exception, continues suffering, although they do all that they can do.
However, we all believe that God is with us, and He will guide us through the COVID-19 pandemic with His almighty and merciful hand on earth. Then God will be us and protect us until we arrive at Kingdom in Heaven, where there is no more pain, crying, sorrow, and even death.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21: 4)
It is hard to believe God’s good news, but our unbelief pleases Him. Zachariah became muted till God’s prophecy was fulfilled. He could not speak throughout the pregnancy of his wife, Elizabeth, although Elizabeth exclaimed, “How kind the Lord is! He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.” When John was born, God opended Zachriah’s mouth.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “
“Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28b)
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1: 30b-33)
God gave the good news that nobody could comprehend and receive as spoken by the angel. Mary would give birth to Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High, who would reign over His people forever, and His kingdom would never end. Again, it was the good news from God, but none could believe it easily.
Thus, Mary asked the angel,
“How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34b)
Not like Zachariah, who was the top leader of all Jews religious leaders, Mary, an ordinary woman, was not directly related to religious leaders or priests. Zacharia, the high priest, could not believe God’s good news when he heard from the angel Gabriel. Mary carefully approached to the angel Gabriel to believe the good news from God.
How many years believed or how high the official position in a religious organization does not really matter when we actually meet God. Humbling and opening to God while emptying ourselves matter. Confessing our sins, the most serious barrier between God and us before God, makes us get close to God. Then needed is our constant devotion and dedication to God with prayer while reading and meditating His Word to grow deeper into Him. Thus, Apostle Paul tells us:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)
Mary’s response expressed her desire to believe is well captured in her choise of word, “will” in her question, and Mary asked Gabriel’s help. It gives another insight into God’s character. God loves our effort to believe despite the impossibility to our eyes. God is more than willing to help us so that we can be His.
The angel replied,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For the word of God will never fail.” (Luke 1:35b-37)
Gabriel, the angel, kindly explained. She would bear a baby conceived by the Holy Spirit and be born as the Son of God. What a blessed message of the angel Gabriel!
The angel Gabriel did not stop there. Gabriel gave Mary a tangible proof of God’s power — Elizabeth’s pregnancy in her old age, although people used to say she was barren. Mary, then, visited Elizabeth, Mary’s relative, and Mary was greatly comforted. Even the baby in Elizabeth’s womb rejoiced, and Elizbeth praised Mary and baby that would be born from Mary. Zachariah did not believe, but the Word of God did not fail. John, the Baptist, was born and prepared the way of the Lord, Jesus Christ when he grew up.
God’s Word never fails, whether people believe it or not. His Word promises us that He will never leave us, nor forsake us, no matter what happens to us. God is always faithful, and His Word is forever with us. This is the solemn promise of God, in which we can take rest.
For God has said,
“I will never fail you.
I will never abandon you.”
So we can say with confidence,
“The LORD is my helper,
so I will have no fear.
What can mere people do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5b-6)
Mary responded with her faith,
“I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” (Luke 1:38b)
What an answer from the mouth of faithful Mary! It was not an answer that Mary could easily give. Accepting the good news brought by the angel Gabriel was the end of her engagement. She was about to get married to Joseph. As soon as Joseph knew she was pregnant, Joseph would break her engagement and not take her as his wife. Indeed, by accepting the good news, she just lost everything that a woman could have at the time of Mary about 2,000 years ago. Instead, she believed the impossibility of having a baby and took the risk of losing everything. She said, “I am the Lord’s servant.” She continued, “May everything you have said about me come true.” This was her faith.
Mary paid everything that she had for Jesus Christ. Indeed, Jesus Christ’s birth came with her enormous sacrifice in her faith. Her faith and sacrifice were much more significant than those of the high priest of the day, Zechariah.
Mary’s sacrifice for the Lord, Our Savior, Jesus Christ, was followed by John’s life dedication. John was born six months ahead of the birth of Jesus Christ and spent all his life for Jesus Christ. He went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. Isaiah had spoken of John when he said,
“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming!
Clear the road for him
The valleys will be filled,
and the mountains and hills made level.
The curves will be straightened,
and the rough places made smooth.
And then all people will see
the salvation sent from God.’” (Luke 3:4b-6)
John became the voice preparing the hearts of people before Jesus so that they received Jesus Christ as the Savior. This good news was foretold by Prophet Isaiah, which was 2700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. As prophesized by Prophet Isaiah, John, the Baptist, became the voice in the wilderness to prepare the way for Jesus Christ, the Lord, Our Savior.
In the wilderness, John the Baptist’s message was direct and straightforward. Jesus Christ would come to lift the lowly and the oppressed while making humble the kings and nobles. This is what truly needs, even today. The lowly and the oppressed will receive His mercy and glory because God’s mercy is about to be poured on them in double portion, especially in this blessed Advent season.
All our crooked hearts will be straightened before God so that we can walk the paths of righteousness again. A bright sun will shine on us as following Him through His righteousness.
God will smooth out our hearts, abrasive due to conflicts with others and our sins, to be like the green pasture in the Garden of Eden, where God and Adam used to converse like the closest friends. After sinning to God, Adam hid from God in darkness, but no more will we because God is with us now. God’s newly blessed world comes into our hearts and is being established every day by God while making us being transformed gradually in Him. As receiving and believing God’s Good News of Jesus Christ, the lost relationship with God is restored.
Prophet Isaiah saw this restoration on the holy mountain of God in vision, and wrote:
The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling a together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11: 6-9)
About 4,700 years ago, Prophet Isaiah told the Good News: coming of Jesus Christ, the Lord, Our Savior. Then 2,000 years ago, Gabriel, God’s angel, bought the same Good News. First to Zachariah, the high priest, and then Mary, the lowly ordinary woman who was engaged and waiting to get married. Then John the Baptist cried out the Good News of coming of Jesus Christ, the Savior, in the wilderness to prepare the way for Jesus Christ.
Regardless of what we are, socially or religiously high on position or lowly as ordinary people, Good News equally comes upon everyone because God equally loves us.
Whether we are troubled in our hearts, or we are suffering from an abusive relationship with loved ones, which is painful, or from our sins to God and others, our Savior lovely calls us to give the peace of Heaven, which we cannot find at all on earth because it is of God.
Coming of Jesus Christ, Our Savior, is the Good News. The choice is on us — doubting and rejecting the Good News like Zachariah or accepting like Mary. Sometimes, accepting the Good News is costly as Mary did. She sacrificed all things and received the Good News announced by the angel, Gabriel. Surely God guided and protected Mary for the rest of her life. Even today and this moment, the Good News of birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior, comes upon all on every corner of the earth regardless of who and what they are.
Just receive the Good News, which is God’s greatest gift for all, especially in this blessed Advent season.
Merry Christmas to all!
The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! (Luke 2:11)