In the first chapter of Luke, we meet a temple priest named Zechariah. He’s not the kind of person you would expect to doubt. He is righteous and clearly committed to serving the work of the Lord and his people (v6).
During an already momentous occasion of offering incense, he is met by an angel, and is told his prayers have been heard! He and his wife will have a baby boy (v13). And the future of this baby will help restore the Israelites to God (v16).
But this news seems too good to be true for Zechariah.
He is seemingly accepting of wider good news: Israel being restored, the presence of the angel, and the honour of offering incense. But years of disappointment cloud his ability to see the goodness of God speaking into his family’s deepest desire (v18). He has given up hope that God could possibly be generous towards him.
It’s all too easy to have a heart like Zechariah’s. To readily believe Jesus brings good news to the whole world. But struggle to see how it could restore us from our deepest and most painful insecurities.
As the story unfolds throughout the chapter, we meet Mary, Elizabeth’s cousin. This young woman is given a promise of hope which simultaneously has the prospect of shattering her future marriage (v27). She’s greatly troubled by the angel’s greeting (v29) and has some technical questions on how this pregnancy will work (v34). But ultimately her faith in the promise of God to carry out His plan is astounding!
Giving birth to the Son of God is (mercifully) not a role we will play. But the good news of Jesus’ arrival still carries with it the promise of simultaneous good and challenge for the future of every Christian.
In our mission in universities, we continue to be part of a legacy with Christians: past, present, and future. Introducing people to Christ will always be an immense privilege and joy. And yet, this great hope carries with it potential for our lives as we know it to be uprooted. The potential for rejection and disappointment from jobs, family, or friends.
To a frightened young woman with an uncertain future, her trust is secure in the God who upholds generations and loves the humble (v50-51).
To those who feel overwhelmed by the weight of the task and have had their future threatened: hold fast to this truth.
Mary did. And God did not forget her.
Chapter two, a group of shepherds are going about their business. With a reputation for being ‘dirty’ and untrustworthy, they have no reason to expect that God will give them anything.
To those whom significant social barriers stood between them and the promises of God, a whole host of angels were sent. There is no way they could miss that the message of Emmanuel – God with us – was for all people without exception (v10).
Perhaps you find yourself on the fringes of Christian community. And, consequently feeling rejected by God.
Know that to those who were far from welcome, a multitude of angels were sent saying ‘I bring good news that will cause great joy for all people.’ (emphasis added)
A Christmas flowing from the gospel does defy expectations with surprising joy. A Christmas in which our disappointments are not met with sentimentality, but with good news rooted in reality.
Jesus invites those who have nothing and believe they are nothing, like the shepherds. To them, an army of angels is given singing ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favour rests!’
Jesus invites those who have had their future hopes threatened, like Mary. To them, through suffering and uncertainty, is guaranteed a greater and more secure hope.
Jesus invites those who only see the goodness of God to others, like Zechariah. To show the goodness of God reaches far and near. The good news of Jesus reaches the whole world as well as our most painful losses and disappointments.
To all these circumstances, and more:
A child is born, to us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)
This blog was written by Rosie O'Donnell, CU Staff Worker in East Anglia
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