Advent 1: Empty

When people think of the Christmas story, they often go to the book of Luke in the Bible. Years of hearing Linus recite the story of the shepherds put the words of Luke in people’s hearts. And for some people, it isn’t Christmas until they hear Linus.

And they wait with great anticipation. They check the listings. They clear their schedules. Even though they can watch the videotape over and over again, they wait eagerly for the coming of the “Charlie Brown Christmas.”

If you are like those people, then Luke wrote about you. He wrote about that kind of anticipation, that kind of looking forward, that kind of longing.

For the next 25 days, we’ll look at those people, at that kind of longing.

And we’ll start with Elizabeth and Zechariah in Luke 1.

***

Elizabeth and Zechariah were righteous, blameless…and barren.

They were comparatively older. They wanted a baby. If she had visited a fertility specialist, the response would have been, “It would take a miracle.”

It wasn’t right, somehow. E and Z knew in their hearts, “We do everything right, we do everything we think that God is wanting us to do and….nothing.” He was even part of the staff of the temple, going up to Jerusalem on a regular basis to take his turn serving God.

Did they ever wonder, “Why bother?”

Lots of people think that about church, about being moral, about being good.

  • “What good does it do me?”
  • “I’ve been good for a week, and nothing happened.”
  • “I’ve been good all year, and I still got coal in my stocking.”
  • “I tried being good, and look what it got me.”

Elizabeth and Zechariah did, finally, have a son. And, after about thirty years, his head was cut off. But in the meantime, God was amazing. John, their son, the child that couldn’t have been born, upset the whole social structure. He paved the way for the One to come, for the Person who would follow.

So how long do you wait?

Until whatever you are waiting for absolutely couldn’t happen…without a miracle.

8 thoughts on “Advent 1: Empty

  1. Joseph Ruiz (@SMSJOE)

    Wow waiting for a miracle is not a comfortable position, yet it seems to be so necessary especially in our culture of abundance and self-sufficiency or at least the illusion of these. Powerful beginning to the season Jon, thank you.
    Grace and Peace
    Joe

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  2. Jill

    Waiting for a miracle is extremely uncomfortable.
    Sometimes it leads to deal brokering with God…which, of course, doesn’t work…and decreases our faith…which is probably why that process doesn’t work…because then I bring God down to my level…which, ugh…nobody wants God at my level.
    I think we take away the miracle of salvation when we think just because. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…” John 1:2 and “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are,” Hebrews 4:15 because we forget the last part of verse 15…”yet without sin”. Oh yeah, and that he came for the express purpose of providing a means for salvation.
    Perhaps we’re supposed to be uncomfortable…if we get too comfortable, we forget why we’re here.

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  3. Meg

    So, I’ve been thinking…

    So you are supposed to live well and honorably. You’re supposed to trust that He will provide and follow Him. And one day a plan is born. And hopes are pinned on that plan. And faith is put in that plan. And you dream.

    Then barriers arise. Windows close, doors are slammed. Hope dims and faith waivers. It’s about those things. Those things that don’t come easily, those things you have to really fight for… it’s so hard to know how large a risk you are supposed to take and how hard you are supposed to fight for something (or someone).

    Are you always supposed to lay it all on the line and take enormous risks requiring enormous faith in order to fight for what you want/need/think is good and right? Or do you recognize the implications of doing so if at the end of the battle your arms will be empty and your heart crushed. That your family will be wrung out and lose hope and worse, faith?

    Knowing when to fight and when to stop and when to wait for the miracle.

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  4. Jon Swanson

    I’m going to join the conversation as a participant rather than an answer-giver.

    As I read through Meg’s question, I realized that Elizabeth and Zechariah had given up. They weren’t waiting for a miracle any more. They were past the time when anything could be expected to happen. They were living a life of faith IN God, but there is no evidence that they had any faith THAT God was going to provide a child ever. They had no plan.

    When the plan did come, the word that there would be a baby, there was first disbelief and then quiet reflection.

    So this goes two ways. 1. if it’s our dream, there is no guarantee it will happen. 2. If it’s God’s dream, nothing can stop it from happening.

    And in the middle, we just get up every morning and do the work that is in front of us, faithfully loving, honestly confessing, and earnestly asking for help to do the first two.

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  5. Matt

    During Advent, I always think of the Gospel of Matthew and wonder about Abraham. Was Abraham’s promise fulfilled and we’re all trying to live up to Jesus’ commandment of love others as you love yourself? The Bible hasn’t had many additions recently.

    I wonder where the three wise men came from and how difficult their journey may have been. Also the shepherds left the fields to see this “thing” because an angel appeared to them. I think the wise men and shepherds went looking for the miracle.

    I wonder what Joseph thought about the situation and Mary. Joseph doesn’t get much attention, except to be the reason why the couple find themselves in Bethlehem. He gets written in to, or maybe out of, the story quick and early.

    I begin to reflect on my faith after the first Sunday of Advent – the celebration of light (in my house). I haven’t figured out yet if this is a story of rebirth, miracles, divine chaos, or blind faith. I’m thinking about this.

    Be aglow.

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    1. Jon Swanson

      matt – part of the challenge I always face during this season is that I don’t reflect. I’ve often not given myself time between programs and planning and expectations. But when I do, I share the exploration of all those people and wondering what possible could have been going through their minds and hearts. Because they were living through this the first time. No hindsight, no pageants to help them see which parts were important. They were just living.

      And they didn’t always get it. They weren’t always saintly.

      They were mostly like us.

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  6. Cindy

    I regularly struggle with this subject. How hard does one push to see God’s Will done? or Do you wait until opportunities present themselves and then proceed? I really don’t know if there’s a correct answer other than to attempt to do God’s Will in whatever situation or place in life He has you…to the glory and praise of Him. Still doesn’t really answer the question…

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