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Preparing Hearts

Advent 2020: December 20
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Scripture:

“In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

“Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.’

“And Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.’ And the angel answered him, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.’ And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

“After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, ‘Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.’” (Luke 1:5-25)

Devotion:

Though Christmas is only one day out of the year, we celebrate the Christmas season for almost a month. Most of that time is preparation for the big day. We spend time decorating our homes, buying presents, attending parties, and celebrating Advent. Just like we prepare for Christmas day, God also prepared the way for the Messiah to come to a world that had been waiting for Him.

Zechariah and Elizabeth had faithfully followed the Lord their whole lives. Unfortunately, they had been unable to have children, and were now too old for that to even be possible. God, however, is in the business of making the impossible a reality. Besides the miracle of an infertile couple having a child at that age, the angel’s message to Zechariah (and his sudden inability to speak) showed that this child would be very special. Can you imagine the confusion, excitement, and anticipation they felt?

God would use John’s life to prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. John would call the Israelites back to God and soften their hearts to the true gospel. The song “Joy to the World” states, “Let every heart prepare him room.” John helped people do just that by boldly telling the people about the coming Messiah. God was preparing the space for Jesus to enter in.

During Advent, we can prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We also look forward to Easter and the new life found in Jesus through His death, burial, and resurrection. For now, we watch and wait for the anticipated arrival of the Savior.

Questions:
  1. Even though it had been 400 years of silence between the Old Testament and start of the New Testament, God was still at work. How was God preparing the way for Jesus’ coming?
  2. Do you, like Zechariah, ever find it difficult to trust in God’s promises? How does this story give you hope?
  3. What is your favorite activity that your family does to prepare for Christmas?
Family Activity:

Today, draw a picture of an old man and woman on your ornament to represent Zechariah and Elizabeth. Remind your family that what is impossible for us is possible for God. Sing or listen to “Joy to the World,” a song that’s more about Jesus’ second coming than His first. Talk about what Jesus has already done in your lives and the amazing things He will do when He returns again.