December 17 I Thursday
“But the angel said to him: ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.’” —Luke 1:13
When we go to the malls or turn on the radio, the music speaks of good cheer and wonderful happy feelings during Christmas time. But some of us may be going through a time of hardship, where we are experiencing a source of pain and suffering in our life. Scripture draws our attention to two people in the first moments of Christmas: Zechariah and Elizabeth. They both come from a distinguished priestly background. Righteous in the sight of God, they observe all His commands and decrees blamelessly. Yet, this couple carried a wound with them their whole married life, a sore spot that was a source of pain for them: they were childless.
Present day, some may not think it is a big deal. But during the New Testament times, this was a source of disgrace to Elizabeth because barrenness was seen as God’s displeasure. We could imagine the couple praying together, “Lord, we have been obedient to You. We have observed all Your commands and decrees. Why are we suffering this disgrace?” But as Zechariah and Elizabeth get along in years, hopelessness eventually surrounds them.
What happens to Zechariah in the midst of this hopelessness? Luke 1:8-9 tells us, “Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty…he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.” Zechariah was given a prestigious task of bringing the incense and burning it before God, which represents the prayers of the people going up before God. This task was most coveted, because there were many priests during that time and it was rare for one to have the opportunity to carry such a task, especially since one was only permitted to carry this job once in a lifetime.
As Zechariah burned incense, he brought intercession not only for the people of Israel, but also for himself. We may feel no matter how hard we try, no matter how pure our motives are and no matter how many times we have prayed, God does not hear us. Against all hope, Zechariah sends up one more prayer that he and his wife might experience the joy of having a child. Have we ever held out hope in the midst of a hopeless situation, where seemingly everything around us might be going wrong, but somehow we are holding on to God in the midst of it?
An angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard” (Luke 1:13). Zechariah’s story proves that God hears our prayers and He knows our pain.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You hear my countless prayers and You know my unspoken pain. Keep my faith firmly upon You even during seasons of hopelessness. Amen!