What about this Child

And all their neighbors became afraid. In all the hill country of Judea people continued talking about all these things. All the people that heard about these things wondered about them. They thought, “What will this child (John) be?” They said this because the Lord (God) was with this child. – Luke 1:65-66

Speculation about a newborn is nothing new. Parents, family, and friends have looked down on a sleeping newborn and wondered, “What will this child turn out to be?” It was natural that people did this with John. However, they went beyond the normal speculation because they had reason to believe he was special. Conceived in Elizabeth’s old age after his dad was on service in the Temple and lost his ability to speak made John special. Add in his surprising name and the return of his father’s speech and you have an unforgettable birth. So their wonder and amazement led them to “prophesy”: “The hand of the Lord is surely upon him in a special way.” God was at work in John to do something spectacular. At the same time, we need to remember that God is at work in each child, from the moment of conception, to do something spectacular. Let’s make a commitment to pray and to bless each child that God puts into our circle of influence! O glorious God, you alone are Creator of the universe and giver of life! Please use me to bless your precious children. Work in the hearts of our people so that we can value each child as you do. Psalm 139:13-16 – Philippians 2:13 – Genesis 1:26-27

Obedience Pure and Simple

When the baby was eight days old, they came to circumcise him. They wanted to name him Zechariah because this was his father’s name. But his mother said, “No! He will be named John.” The people said to Elizabeth, “But no one in your family has this name (John)!” Then they made signs to his father, “What would you like to name him?” Zechariah asked for something to write on. Then Zechariah wrote, “His name is John.” All the people were surprised. Then Zechariah could talk again. He began to praise God. – Luke 1:59-64

What is the big deal about the name of this miracle baby given to Elizabeth? Obedience, pure and simple. There was no reason to name him John—no relatives or heroes in the family of that name. But the angel had said, “You will name him John.” So, they did! God’s approval was shown in the removal of Zechariah’s inability to speak. This conception, this birth, this child is no accident of late-life passion. This is the work of God! Obedience, pure and simple, opens up a pathway for the work of God, and no one’s life illustrates that more than John ben Zechariah, the one we know as John the Baptist! Holy and righteous God, full of compassion and mercy, please forgive me for sometimes treating my responsibility to obey your will as optional. Give me a holy passion to honor you in word and in deed. 1 Samuel 15:17-23 – James 1:21-25 – Colossians 1:19-23

Rejoice

When it was time for Elizabeth to give birth, she had a boy. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord (God) was very good to her. They were happy for her. – Luke 1:57-58

So often today, it seems that those who are not blessed with unexpected joys are jealous, even critical, of those who do receive them. Isn’t it wonderful that Elizabeth’s neighbors weren’t that way? We can follow their lead and rejoice with those who rejoice! Find things in your friends’ lives for which you can honestly rejoice. That makes their blessings a source of blessing for you, too! Seems like, dear God and Almighty LORD, that there is so much bad news these days. I don’t seem to find the good in the things around me. Give me a heart that rejoices with the blessings of others. Make that joy contagious. Romans 12:15 – Philippians 4:4-8 – Psalm 22:26

A Burst of Praise

Then Mary said: “I praise the Lord (God) with all my heart. I am very happy because God is my Savior. I am not important. But God has shown his care for me, his servant girl. From now on, all people will say that I am blessed, because the Powerful One (God) has done great things for me. His name is very holy. God always gives mercy to those people that worship him. God reached out his arm and showed his power: He scattered those people that are proud and think great things about themselves. God brought down rulers from their thrones, and he raised up the humble people. God filled the hungry people with good things, but he sent the {selfishly} rich people away with nothing. God has helped Israel—the people he chose to serve him. He did not forget his promise to give us his mercy. God has done what he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham, and to his children forever.” Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months. Then Mary went home. – Luke 1:46-56

Two thoughts immediately strike me about Mary’s song—known as the Magnificant. First, notice how easily she slips into praise passages from the Old Testament to speak her praise to God! Imagine being that familiar with the language of praise. What a wonderful thing for us to do—to let the language and idiom of praise from the Bible become our own. Second, Mary was probably very young when this happened. We often shoot way too low in our expectations of our children’s knowledge of Scripture. So let’s be touched by Mary’s praise and then let’s go take these two principles and turn them loose in our lives and families! O righteous God, my Heavenly Father, forgive me for my inadequate words of praise. Give me a heart that desires to honor you with my life and my words. Through your Spirit, give my mind extraordinary ability to remember and to recall the praise I read in Scripture so that my limited language to express my love to you will be enriched. Psalm 147:1-7 – Romans 11:33-35 – Ephesians 3:20-21

Connected Grace

Mary got up and went quickly to a town in the hill country of Judea. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the unborn baby inside Elizabeth jumped. Then Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth said with a loud voice, “God has blessed you (Mary) more than any other woman. And God has blessed the baby which you will give birth to. You are the mother of my Lord, and you have come to me! Why has something so good happened to me? When I heard your voice, the baby inside me jumped with joy. What a blessing is yours because you believed what the Lord (God) said to you! You believed this would happen.” – Luke 1:39-45

What a glorious way God connected two different promises delivered by the angel to two precious women. He promised Elizabeth that her son would be filled by the Spirit from the womb, and sure enough, her son stirs at the voice of Mary and the presence of the newly conceived Messiah. He also promised Mary that Elizabeth was pregnant and that this pregnancy was the confirmation of God’s miracle. Mary’s faith was strengthened and both women were blessed. While we may never have experienced an encounter with the angel Gabriel, we have received a host of promises from God which can be accepted only by faith. However, our faith remains small and often unblessed until we begin to act on that faith. That active faith then opens the door for God’s blessing and confirmation. So what promise from Scripture has God laid on your heart recently that you are not acting on because of your doubt? Why not prayerfully re-examine that promise and then act obediently in response to God’s Word? O glorious God and Father, “I believe, but help my unbelief!” Forgive me for letting my doubt and my circumstances interfere with my obedience. Give me courage to obey your commands and to respond to your promises in faith. Mark 9:20-29 – Matthew 7:21 – Ephesians 2:8-10