Monday 18th December
When the Impossible Happens - Luke 1:13-17
But the angel said to him: ďDo not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him 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 before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel 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 parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous - to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

It was simply beyond all possibility. We can only imagine the pain and heartache of a childless couple whose situation had afforded Elizabeth the hurtful designation of 'barren'. But they had long since come to terms with this reality, for Elizabeth was now way beyond the normal age of child-bearing. Yet the Angel of the Lord announced that they were now to become parents.

This encounter occurred when Zechariah was undertaking the most sacred and privileged of priestly duties. Yet this was the place that God chose to engage with his most intimate and personal longing and disappointment. God makes no distinction between the sacred courts and the realities of human experience. Long after every shred of human reason had declared their situation hopeless, God's decree was that this couple would become those through whom the Saviour's herald arrived in this world.

in the midst of hopeless disappointment and despair, God yet sees potential, not simply for one anguished couple, but for a nation and a world. The child that they are called to bear is the one who will make ready the way of the Lord.

John is not called to collect around himself a group of like-minded individuals, but to prepare a nation; to challenge and shape the structures and forces that influence and define the society into which he comes. This is why in later life he speaks with equal concern to the devout and religious; the money makers and opportunists and the foreign troops of an occupying army. It is for this reason, he is not afraid to challenge the behaviour of a corrupt king, and somehow by the power of Godís Spirit and the word he speaks, manages to make his message heard. This is a success for which he pays dearly, but it does not deflect him from his calling, to declare and make known the Word of the Lord.

We who today stand in that tradition, who wait in similar expectation for the day when this Christ will come again, are also called to be those who make His Word known. Ours is not a message that can simply retreat and hide itself away in the margins, we too are called to declare Godís truth at the heart of the institutions and power structures that control our world.

This is a calling which is costly and demanding; it is a calling which will seldom be popular, but our Advent journey beckons us to be those who call our world to make ready for the coming of its Creator and King.

God of all hope, help me to trust in your purposes even when they challenge every human expectation - not for my sake alone, but because of what you might achieve through me - AMEN

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