20 December 2012

Luke 1:21-25

"This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people." (v. 25)


Today's reading sees the fulfilment of the prophecy of Gabriel that Elizabeth would become pregnant. Her response is to withdraw into seclusion, in spite of her joy. It is a response that fits with the silence of Zechariah (verse 20): what God has done is to be trumpeted only when the baby is born. This is a time for quiet thankfulness.

Elizabeth's thankfulness is recorded. If children are understood (as in the biblical narrative) as a blessing from God, childlessness can be interpreted as a sign of God's disfavour. For two people who lived blameless lives (verse 6), this must have been hard to bear. Again, there is an echo of an important Old Testament birth narrative. Like Elizabeth, Rachel discovering that she is expecting Joseph declares that the Lord has taken away her disgrace (Genesis 30:23).

Zechariah is, of course, speechless at this time. But his speechlessness has proved to be eloquent. He emerged from the sanctuary where he had met with Gabriel to be greeted by the congregation who were awaiting his blessing. His delay in appearing and inability to pronounce the benediction are enough to tell the assembled people that something momentous is happening. Even in a passage where the good news seems to be kept quiet, the good news is being heard.

To Ponder

  • Do your prayers include those who are unable to have children and live with that pain?
  • Does a sense of a child as a gift from God inform your approach to difficult ethical issues such as fertility treatment or abortion? If so, how?
  • Are there times when silence is a more appropriate response than speech to an experience of the goodness of God? What might they be?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler

Having been a Methodist circuit minister and a theological college tutor, Jonathan is now Ministerial Coordinator for Oversight of Ordained Ministries in the Connexional Team..