December 17th, 2012

Advent Devotional by Joy Fallon




But how, my wife and I are so old now?
But how, I’ve never slept with a man?

Luke opens his book with two parallel stories of babies born to astonished parents:  Zechariah, the temple priest, told his aged, barren wife Elizabeth will bear John the Baptist, and Mary, the young single girl, told she have Jesus.  Both blurt out,  “But how can this be?” yet it is only Zechariah who is punished, struck dumb for nine months until his baby is born. Mary gets off clean, told, “With God all things are possible.”

It seems so unfair. I like questioning God – being honest about the things I find odd, weird, or wrong.  I’m convinced God likes that, too – God gave us our thinking brains, and the psalms are full of good, tough questions for God. I love our church’s welcome of all – believers, seekers, and doubters.

Then I notice that God gives both Zechariah and Mary the same thing, nine months to prepare for the unbelievable new way God is about to break into their lives: Mary in the seclusion of a pregnant woman, and Zechariah in his imposed contemplation.  By the time John is born, Zechariah does break out of his old mindset: against the pressures of family and friends, he names his baby as the angel had foretold, rather than after himself.

Prayer: God, you know us so well. Thank you for giving us just what we need in Advent – a time when all of us, old and young, believers and skeptics  – can ponder and prepare. We need a time apart if we are to stand any chance of grasping your plan: to enter our lives in unfathomable ways.