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Good News of Great Joy: Luke 1

The Birth of John the Baptist
Luke 1

In tales from long ago, God walked in close fellowship with His people. He sent Abraham from his country to a land filled with the promise of greatness, where God’s kingdom would bless the people of every nation. Though Israel had been unfaithful along the way, God also promised the coming of a Messiah who would redeem the people from captivity. The prophet Malachi said this Savior would be preceeded by a herald - a messenger who would prepare the heart of Israel for the king.

But it had been 400 years since Malachi, and many strongmen and rulers had ravaged Israel - most lately Rome, with its cruel puppet Herod the Great. A half-Jew, he was no descendant of David. Appointed by Marc Antony and confirmed by the Senate in 40 BC, he was near the end of his tyrannical reign and was more paranoid than ever. His last and most horrific remembered act was the slaughter of innocents, spurred on by the Wise Men, who inquired of the location of the “born King.”

Where was God? Indeed if there was a God, He was silent, or perhaps worse, He had forgotten. The promise of a Messiah seemed like distant tales of things from another age. Perhaps God was active in the lives of His people back then, but that was then, and this is now.

Advent anticipates the coming Messiah, and just as He then appeared in the fullness of time, so will He also come again to receive the church as His own. Like then, the preparation for His coming is a preparation of the heart. For Zacharias, it meant a long season of imposed silence, much like that of Israel, but deeper still, it caused him to know that his heart was very much in tune with the people who longed to hear from Him to understand better.

It was poignant that Zacharias encountered God in the act of corporate prayer, but God’s answer was complete: A Messiah was coming, but so was his own son. His son would represent the best of us - a fallible man, yes, and one who himself would be sinful and in need of a savior, but also one whose love for his savior began even in his mother’s womb.

The message of John the Baptist was key - repent. Like soil that must be tilled to receive the nourishment of the sun, we too must turn our hearts.

Discussion Questions:
1. When Gabriel told Zacharias that his prayers had been answered, what did he mean?
2. The name Zacharias means “God remembered.” Does that imply that God can forget? How is the meaning relavant to the story?
3. Why do you think Zararias doubted the angel? Was the angel cruel to impose deafness and silence on him? How do you think God’s judgement changed his life?
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