Luke 1:5-25 - Zechariah, Elizabeth and the foretelling of John the Baptist
Synopsis: There is nothing quite as unexpected as finding out you are going to have a baby when you are “advanced in days.” But the story of Jesus begins with two sets of parents who were “advanced in days.” In the opening chapter of Luke, a Godly priest named Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth are promised a son, echoing the promise made to Abraham and Sarah generations before. God’s story rarely begins in ways we expect.
Read: Luke 1:5-20, Genesis 18:9-15
Reflect: What similarities and differences are there in the reactions to the promise of a baby for both Abraham and Sarah, and Zechariah and Elizabeth?
Respond: What lessons can be held in their reactions for us as we respond to God’s promises in our life today?
Synopsis: We expect good things to happen to good people and the unrighteous to get what is coming to them. It’s a psychological principle known as the “just world phenomenon.” When bad things happen to righteous people; well now that’s unexpected.
Read: Luke 1:5-6, Psalm 112, Matthew 5:45
Reflect: In Biblical times, barrenness and disease was often seen as some sort of punishment from God while wealth was a sign of God’s reward. Yet, Jesus challenges this line of thinking and teaches us that blessing and challenges are not a result of our efforts but are a reflection of God’s goodness. Where have you seen other examples of this in your life or scripture?
Respond: It’s easy to feel like we are on the wrong path, when we don’t feel successful and “blessed” in our endeavors. However, Mother Teresa has challenged this assumption saying, “We are not called to be successful, but faithful.” In what ways does this idea speak to you?
Synopsis: According to the angel, Zechariah and Elizabeth had prayed for a son. Yet the timing of God’s tangible response to their prayers was not one they expected. This is typical of how God works. His timing is not our timing. Let’s consider a few examples of God’s unexpected timing today.
Read: Luke 1:12-14, Isaiah 55:8-9, Genesis 50:19-21
Reflect: Kids wait for Christmas with great expectations, but often we as adults have given up on expecting much for Christmas. Now imagine that this Christmas your parents provided that toy you asked for year after year and never received, how would you feel? How do you think Zechariah felt when an old forgotten prayer was unexpectedly about to come to fruition?
Respond: There is something sweet about an unexpected blessing. How can you bless someone today (or tomorrow) in a way that’s unexpected? Make a plan and go do it!
Synopsis: An angel appears before Zechariah and tells him some incredible news: he is going to have a son; his prayers have been heard! But this news is too good to be true, too unexpected and he asks the angel for proof. So the angel provides proof, by silencing Zechariah until John the Baptist is born.
Read: Luke 1:5-20, Psalm 46:10, I Kings 19:9-12
Reflect: Sometimes our hearts, our minds, and our schedules are too busy and too noisy for us to really hear what God has to say for us. While God could easily “yell over” the noise, He often chooses moments of silence and a whisper to speak to His people. Why do you think that is?
Respond: Where can you be still and sit in silence this week? Pray for God to speak to you and sit in silence. Write down what God reveals to you in your silence or how you feel being silent.
Synopsis: You may have read your fair share of birth announcements in your lifetime, but I bet few have been as unexpected as the one Gabriel provides for John. And John was certainly an unexpected figure to announce the arrival of God’s Son.
Read: Luke 1:13-17, Matthew 3:1-6
Reflect: What stands out to you about the description of John that we find in scripture? Why do you think this is significant?
Respond: How does the example of John call you to go against the flow in this holy season?
Synopsis: Zechariah returns home from his service in the temple and Elizabeth becomes pregnant. For five months she hides this unexpected blessing and then she rejoices in the favor she has found.
Read: Luke 1:5-25
Reflect: Imagine Elizabeth’s surprise when she became unexpectedly pregnant in her old age. Scripture doesn’t tell us why she remains in seclusion. Why do you think this is?
Respond: Despite her seclusion, and probably a good deal of confusion at her late in life pregnancy, Elizabeth immediately acknowledges her child as a blessing. How can her response encourage you today in your reactions during the Christmas season or in this current chapter of your life?