Luke 1.8-20

The text:

Zechariah the priest, father of John the Bapti...

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Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.”

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

One thing I’ve come to appreciate about non-Protestant worship is the use of incense and the general liturgical continuity with the Old Testament. The “smells and bells” are one of the most calming elements of a Mass.

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. […]” Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

Another example of angels coming down and talking face to face with humanity. The atheist in me has always responded to this, “Why doesn’t something like this — not to mention all the plainly visible miracles — continue to occur?” Of course, who am I to say miracles don’t occur just because I don’t see them. Still, most individuals today would be accused of lunacy were they to assert that Gabriel appeared and give them a personal message.

And then, in the midst of this, Zechariah says, “Are you sure?” Very human response — doubt everything.

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One thought on “Luke 1.8-20

  1. Jared Olar says:

    “Of course, who am I to say miracles don’t occur just because I don’t see them.” — I’ve been blessed to have experienced a miraculous healing when I was 4 years old: the literally overnight disappearance of life-threatening skull fractures and related head injuries. So I don’t doubt God can and does work miracles. That I’m still alive today is evidence of it. But I haven’t had any more miraculous healings, and I know God does these things for His reasons and when He wants to do them, so I don’t expect to see them happening to everyone every day. If they did, they wouldn’t be miracles.

    And yet, though I have no doubts about miracles, I admit that at times I don’t feel entirely convinced by reports of angelic visitations and heavenly visions. There have been countless reports of apparitions of angels and saints and the Blessed Mother, and the Catholic Church has pronounced many of them to be “worthy of belief.” But I’ve never had a vision, and to my knowledge no angel or saint has ever come from heaven to speak with me. I know that if it were needful or beneficial to me or others, it would happen . . . but I still have this faint trace of a whisper of doubt about such things, simply because I’ve never experienced it personally myself.

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