Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in this blessed Advent season.
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, His mercy and protection on all, and God’s healing on those who are infected by the COVID-19. We all believe God’s grace and love rest on all who look upon Him every moment with faith in Him.
“Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
and he will prepare your way.
He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming!
Clear the road for him!’” (Mark 1:2b-3)
This is the Good News about Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. The prophet Isaiah had prophesized the coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
John the Baptist was the messenger of the above Good News. God sent John as the voice of God to prepare the way for the Messiah, for whom the people waited for centuries.
At that time, the people lived in the darkness. Their nation existed for thousands of years, but their country was no longer theirs. Thus, they searched for the Messiah who could liberate them from the oppression of the foreigners. The foreigners were the Romans, not God’s people. The Romans ruled over them ruthlessly. Their lives were harsh and getting worse every day. Even so, their kings and nobles enjoyed the special provisions provided by the Romans. Indeed, their kings and nobles worked for the Romans to maximize their own benefits, not for their own people. The hearts of the ordinary people were always yearning for the Messiah who would rescue them from the harsh reality and give peace and comfort instead. They prayed and prayed to God, but there was no answer. The same harsh reality was always with them. Their lives were truly depressing without hope.
In reality, God was not indifferent to His people, but had His plan for the people. God was about to send the Messiah for the suffering people. Also, before sending the Messiah, God had sent John to prepare the way for the Messiah and the Savior, Jesus Christ. John was the voice of God, and here is the story of John, the messenger of the coming of Messiah.
When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to 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.”
Zachariah was astonished and in fear because he saw the angel who brought God’s message. God heard his prayer and answered. His wife would have a son. God then commanded Zachariah to set apart his future son John to be a Nazirite by keeping John from worldly things. God also said that his future son John would become like Elijah, one of the greatest prophets, who performed many miracles and wonders for the people to receive God’s Spirit.
Zechariah was still in his fear and awe. But he got focused and said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”
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)
Zechariah immediately realized that something had just happened to him. He wanted to speak, but he could not. He became mute!
Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long. When Zechariah finally did come out, he couldn’t speak to them at all because God made him mute. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary.
Although he could not speak, Zechariah continued serving his week of service in the Temple. The rest of the week was a patient-building period because he could not verbally communicate with others in the Temple. Whenever he was frustrated, he closed his eyes and mentally revisited the scene where he met the angel in the Temple alone, which was a truly blessed moment between him and God. Zechariah treasured this encounter in his heart, and the extraordinary experience with God made him keep going. Zachariah faithfully served God in faith in the Temple. He kept trusting the promise from God given through the angel.
As his week was over, he returned home. It did not take long before his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. She was barren, but she had a baby in her womb in her old age. She praised God, “How kind the Lord is! He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.” Zechariah was still mute.
Six months later, in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent Jesus Christ, the Messiah for whom John the Baptist would prepare. For this time, God sent the same angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee. The angel Gabriel found a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
Mary was totally confused and disturbed, but she tried to focus while figuring out what was happening.
“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” (Luke 1:30-33)
What the angel Gabriel was talking about completely did not make sense to Mary. She was also in fear. She took courage and asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
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.”
At that time, including Mary, all were waiting for the Messiah. Their lives were harsh under the Romans’ occupation, and all believed that the Messiah would liberate them from the Romans. Then their misery would be over. They also believed the Messiah would rule over them with mercy and love. And as time went by, more and more people believed this prophecy, and all eagerly wanted to see it come true.
Mary did not know what to say to the angel. She was silent for a moment. Soon God’s spirit came upon her, and the Holy Spirit made her respond, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” She made her greatest confession in faith. Yes, God made her profess such a magnificent faith, and she obediently answered as the Holy Spirit led.
By the way, Mary was engaged and waiting for the day of getting married to Joseph, her future husband. Accepting the angel’s message, Mary knew that she would lose her future husband, but she resisted the fear of losing her future husband in faith. The angel Gabriel heard this greatest confession of Mary’s faith, and the angel left her.
As soon as the angel left her, she truly wanted to see her relative Elizabeth. She hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She traveled from Nazareth in the northern part of Judea near the sea of Galilee to the south of Judea near the west side of the Dead Sea, which is about 100 km apart.
Mary entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. Mary was so happy to see Elizabeth. A miracle happened – at the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” Immediately, Elizabeth knew Mary bore the Messiah, whom God promised to send to His people, by the Holy Spirit.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Mary burst into praise to God by responding.
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.
He shows mercy from generation to generation
to all who fear him.
His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
He has brought down princes from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
He has helped his servant Israel
and remembered to be merciful.
For he made this promise to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children forever.” (Luke 1:46b-55)
It was not Mary but the Holy Spirit in her who proclaimed the glory of God. God sent the Messiah on the earth, the savior, who would bring mercy on the humble, but send away the proud with empty hands. He would bring down princes from their thrones but exalt the humble. He would fill the hungry with good things but send the rich away empty-handed. God was faithful, and he kept his promise made to Abraham, the father of all Israel people. For the word of God will never fail
Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home, in Nazareth in the northern part of Judea.
When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her. She was barren, but now she had her own baby in her old age. Zechariah still could not speak.
When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!”
“What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.” So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise, he wrote, “His name is John.” Then, instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God.
Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.
As the baby grew, the Holy Spirit was always with John. When John became an adult, he went out to the Judean wilderness. He preached to and baptized the people. John the Baptist’s message was,
“Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2)
Yes, John the Baptist’s message was to repent sins and turn to God to prepare the hearts for the coming of the Savior, Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
We are in the Advent season. It is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Christ at Christmas and the return of Christ at the Second Coming. How to prepare our hearts? The answer is what John the Baptist preached — repent our sins and turn to God to prepare the coming of the Savior, Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
We pray for God’s blessings to each of you in this blessed Advent season, and let’s continue expecting the hope in Him, and share the hope with all around us on the highways and the byways and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, Our Savior with all!
“Blessing and honor and glory and power
belong to the one sitting on the throne
and to the Lamb forever and ever.” (Revelation 6:13b)