19 December 2013

Luke 1:5-25

"I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news." (v.19)


An angelic visitor announces to Zechariah that:

  • his (barren) wife Elizabeth will bear a son
  • this startling birth will set in train a sequence of events unparalleled in history.

Something truly momentous is afoot.

The child's career will be modelled on Elijah, the great action-man prophet of old. His role will be that of announcer, preparing the people for the coming of the Lord. Zechariah has been given a clue about the workings of this process in the words of the angel Gabriel: "I stand in the presence of God and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news". Is there a link between Gabriel standing in the presence of God, and Gabriel's commission to speak?

But how is that 'momentousness' to be measured? Clearly, since the birth of the infant John is several months away, these events lie firmly in the future. The biblical story often teases us, leaving us in some uncertainty about exactly when these things will happen. Here, though, the course of a pregnancy is natural and has a definite end.

Zechariah's reaction to all this is understandable: first terror, next disbelief, and then he lost the power of speech and the ability to communicate. Is there for Zechariah a link between his disbelief and his loss of speech? Could this be an echo of Gabriel's story?

In this story only Zechariah is told of the forthcoming event. As far as Elizabeth is concerned it 'just happens'.

To Ponder

  • When life seems bleak and colourless, how does your faith in God support you?
  • Think on the words of Gabriel. What would it mean to you to stand in the presence of God?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr John Ogden

John Ogden spent most of his life (he is now in his late 70s) teaching Computer Science in the universities of Glasgow and Reading. A local preacher since 1964, he served the Reading and Silchester Circuit as a circuit steward in the 1980s, then candidated for (non-stipendiary) ministry.