There was a man of Zorah of the tribe of Dan, called Manoah. His wife was barren, she had borne no children. The angel of the Lord appeared to this woman and said to her, ‘You are barren and have had no child. But from now on take great care. Take no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean. For you will conceive and bear a son. No razor is to touch his head, for the boy shall be God’s nazirite from his mother’s womb. It is he who will begin to rescue Israel from the power of the Philistines.’ Then the woman went and told her husband, ‘A man of God has just come to me; his presence was like the presence of the angel of God, he was so majestic. I did not ask him where he came from, and he did not reveal his name to me. But he said to me, “You will conceive and bear a son. From now on, take no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean. For the boy shall be God’s nazirite from his mother’s womb to his dying day.”’
The woman gave birth to a son and called him Samson. The child grew, and the Lord blessed him; and the spirit of the Lord began to move him.
In the days of King Herod of Judaea there lived a priest called Zechariah who belonged to the Abijah section of the priesthood, and he had a wife, Elizabeth by name, who was a descendant of Aaron. Both were worthy in the sight of God, and scrupulously observed all the commandments and observances of the Lord. But they were childless: Elizabeth was barren and they were both getting on in years.
Now it was the turn of Zechariah’s section to serve, and he was exercising his priestly office before God when it fell to him by lot, as the ritual custom was, to enter the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense there. And at the hour of incense the whole congregation was outside, praying.
Then there appeared to him the angel of the Lord, standing on the right of the altar of incense. The sight disturbed Zechariah and he was overcome with fear. But the angel said to him, ‘Zechariah, do not be afraid, your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth is to bear you a son and you must name him John. He will be your joy and delight and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord; he must drink no wine, no strong drink. Even from his mother’s womb he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, and he will bring back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah, he will go before him to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children and the disobedient back to the wisdom that the virtuous have, preparing for the Lord a people fit for him.’
Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is getting on in years.’ The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel who stand in God’s presence, and I have been sent to speak to you and bring you this good news. Listen! Since you have not believed my words, which will come true at their appointed time, you will be silenced and have no power of speech until this has happened.’ Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and were surprised that he stayed in the sanctuary so long. When he came out he could not speak to them, and they realised that he had received a vision in the sanctuary. But he could only make signs to them, and remained dumb.
When his time of service came to an end he returned home. Some time later his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept to herself. ‘The Lord has done this for me’ she said ‘now that it has pleased him to take away the humiliation I suffered among men.’
The Lord has done this for me.
In my role at work, I am normally seen as the bearer of news. I liaise with all the government agencies, partner universities and polytechnics, potential and current industry partners, editors and reporters. In addition, I coordinate responses from the university which go out to the public in the event of any queries from the media. And while sometimes, I get to adopt the officious tone which the angels in today’s readings took, more often than not, I have to be diplomatic and even conciliatory, so as to ensure that day-to-day matters are dealt with smoothly and without too much fuss.
I can only imagine the reactions of Zorah and Zechariah when they learnt about their wives’ conditions. And while this kind of news typically brings joy, both men probably reacted more with incredulity. Zechariah certainly questioned the angel Gabriel and look what he got for that. Indeed, I cannot help but wonder what my reaction would be if someone were to tell me how my life was going to pan out over the next few years. However, as I look back over the last few years, I realise that God did give me a message in 2011 and it was a simple one – “follow me”. And because I chose to do so, He has given me much joy over the years, while previously I would have questioned, fretted, ended up frustrated and never feeling satisfied.
I spent a few days in Penang this week and it was so wonderful being with my soulmate and just doing things together 24/7. And even though she fell ill one day and had to rest in the hotel, I was happy to have been able to tend to her and to make sure she was comfortable. After a short errand and a quick bite on my own, I went back to the room and a few minutes later, it started to rain cats and dogs. And there we were, snug as bugs in our hotel room. We were certainly relieved that we had chosen to stay in that afternoon and evening. And I thanked the Lord for keeping us safe and warm in His arms.
Brothers and sisters, seldom do we get the chance to discern God’s hand in our daily life. We scurry about concerned with life, with family matters, with work, our bosses, colleagues and subordinates. Then we get frustrated, stressed out, angry at people, situations and events which we have never had any control over in the first place. Perhaps during this season of Advent, and as we look back on this week of Joy, let us reflect on the small things that have brought smiles to our faces this week. Then look beyond the events or circumstances and reflect on the people who were responsible for those smiles. You may end up surprised at who you walk up to and say “Thank you for bringing joy to me this week.”
(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we prepare to welcome Jesus, your Son, fill our hearts with joy so that we can truly open them up to receive Him fully. For only in our hearts can our Saviour be truly resurrected so that we can go out and proclaim your glory.
Thanksgiving: Lord Jesus, we thank you for each and every person you send our way this Advent. We thank you for your messengers of peace, love and joy.