Blessings & Curses
Even in the land of the sit-com, context matters. While we specialize in raising issues and resolving them 30 minutes at a time (commercials included!), context makes the experience of the story more meaningful. Even if you can ‘get’ an episode of a show you’ve never seen before, there’s more meaning/humor/enjoyment when you know the characters and get the inside or running jokes.
Luke gets context, too. It seems almost odd that the story of Jesus begins with John’s birth, but look at John’s family. Let’s just take a portion of the text for today.
Read Luke 1.5-10
They are a picture of OT righteousness. Zecharaiah was a priest – and his wife was from the priestly line. They didn’t just have a good family, though. Their faith was real. They were righteous Jews. They lived out their covenant obligations. What’s the point? The Jesus story is not some unhinged event that happened in Israel apart from their vocation as God’s people. The Jesus story grows out of, and is the next step in, the story of God’s people Israel. This isn’t a random way for Luke to begin. It is giving us context. Jesus comes from faithful Jewish roots – as does His forerunner, John.
Zechariah and Elizabeth are the picture of the faithful being blessed. They surely have honor in their community. They are used of God. In fact, Zecharaiah was offering sacrifice during the evening prayers. This was the high point of his priestly career. The honor he was granted to do this would only happen once in a person’s lifetime. They were blessed, indeed.
But not all is perfect. Elizabeth can’t have a baby. Some would consider her cursed. It is likely she was still respected in the community because of their religious standing, but this would certainly hang like a cloud over them. As righteous and faithful and blessed as they were, not all was perfect.
What about you?
In the busyness of the season it is easy to forget how much you’ve been blessed. Take some time to list some specific blessings. I have a sheet of paper I list them on … and add to it periodically. I try to pray through that list and be thankful for everything from my wife and family to banana Slurpees. I need to try harder and pray through them more regularly.
But this passage isn’t all about blessings. There’s a cloud over Christmas for some. It may be a lonely season for some, a painful reminder of loss or alienation. Take some time to wrestle with that as well. Ask God how He wants you to work through whatever this dark side of Christmas might mean for you.
The beauty of this passage, and what might frustrate some of us, is the reality that Zechariah and Elizabeth are like a handful of OT characters. An older woman who shouldn’t be having babies is set up for the miraculous to happen.
Faithfulness and struggle seem to be a convergence zone for something wonderful to happen. (That sounds like it should have something to do with weather. Completely incidental if it does.) I don’t know what it will look like. It might only be a life of faithful struggle to the end, but I encourage you to keep faithful – even as you struggle – and see what God might do in that convergence zone in your life.