19 December 2016
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.’
Do not be afraid
Today’s readings shows us how God made the seemingly impossible, possible. Barren women were gifted with child. The wife of Manoah (who remained nameless), Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth in today’s scripture, Sarah who was Isaac’s mother, and also his wife Rebekah were all seemingly barren women. I often wonder how it is scientifically possible given that most of these women were in their twilight years. But with God, these miracles cannot be explained scientifically. It’s faith that helps us know in our hearts that everything is possible with God.
Imagine what it must have been like when the angel of God appeared to Zechariah telling him his wife was about to be pregnant. If I had been him, I would probably have said “Ya, right! Are you out of your mind?”
In today’s modern world, with advancement of science and technology, we are able to do things that weren’t possible before. So much so, we have become nonchalant, almost blasé about some of the amazing new discoveries. How is it so then when God prompts us to do something or reveals a situation in our lives – we find it so hard to believe? Is it because it cannot be explained to our intellectual minds? Or is it out of fear that we refuse to believe.
“Do not be afraid” are words we need to hear today. A quick Google search reveals that these words appear 365 times in the bible. How awesome is that – a daily reminder from God that we should live our lives fearlessly!
Recently, a family situation called for some changes to our lives. Some, more than others. For some, our lives will be irrevocably changed. I personally felt that God was pushing me to do something that I am uncomfortable with, something I absolutely didn’t want a part of. I was angry and feared that immense responsibility. And as I reflected on why I was feeling so strongly about it, I realised that it is simply because it didn’t fit my own plans. I am then reminded of our Mother when she said ‘do unto me according to thy word.’ She had deep faith and trust in God and His plans, despite the fact that being a young, unmarried pregnant woman was terribly ‘inconvenient’. While I still fight against what God is calling me to do, I am slowly learning to let go and let God take me along this journey. And the words ‘Do not be afraid’ are the words that carry me though each day.
Can you let go of fears in your own life situation and let God lead you today? Can you get past your own notion of what your life should look like and let God’s miracle reveal itself?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: Lord Jesus, often we feel the need to be in control of our lives. When in fact, you have the blueprint to our life stories. Grant us deeper faith to trust that your plan for us is perfect, your timing perfect. Unconventional your ways may be, teach us to always remember that you know what is best for our lives today.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for your daily reminder that you are with us. And that there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of.