And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
-Luke 1: 76
He begins the refrain quietly, ”Prepare Ye, The Way of the Lord. Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.” All the sudden the words are supported by upbeat and fast music and what began as a thoughtful solo becomes a rocking ensemble number. So begins the 1971 hit musical “Godspell”, a creative, playful and powerful retelling of the Gospel according to Matthew. A Gospel telling Jesus’ birth, life and death. A gospel that begins with John the Baptist, Preparing the Way.
A man born to elderly parents, raised in the wilderness, a man most unlikely to prepare the way for Jesus’s ministry! Just like his dad was most unlikely to be his father. As told in our Scripture for today, Zachariah found out he would be a father not by his wife but by Gabriel, an angel of the Lord. And he was not a young man, looking forward to raising a family and establishing his career as a priest but rather during his golden years, with more to remember than to look forward to. Particularly because he had no grandchildren, as his wife Elizabeth was barren and they had no children.
God has a way of using the most unexpected people in the most unexpected times to bring about his promises. Remember Sarah and Abraham back in Genesis? Same situation as Zechariah and Elizabeth, with similar miraculous outcome of a son. There is a pattern here. There is a pattern of God’s divine actions moving forward in a world who says they can’t happen. There is a pattern of God’s hope surpassing the deepest despair. There is a pattern of God’s steadfast love remaining even in the face of doubt.
Zechariah could not believe Gabriel’s message and consequently was mute for the entirely of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. But despite his lack of faith, Elizabeth did indeed give birth to a son, whom they named John. The most unlikely of parents with the most unlikely child. A child to prepare the way for humanity’s greatest gift…a babe in a manger.
Because, as we know, another unlikely family was growing as John was a newborn…Joseph and his young wife Mary welcome their son, whom the name Jesus. And God’s promise is fulfilled. As Rev. Ali Trowbridge reflects: “In this tiny child, the way to God has been established for all generations, and all that was promised to our ancestors, all that was promised in the holy covenant established with Abraham is made known in new dimensions with the gift of this birth.”
Thank you God, for your gift of Jesus. Thank you for keeping your promises to us, even in the most unexpected ways, through the most unexpected people. In these final days of anticipation, may we reflect on the power of your promises, embrace the unlikely people and circumstances in our lives, and be open to your guiding of us in this world to bring about your hope and peace, joy, and love. AMEN.
Pastor Jessica Gregory