God of faith and grace, thank you for leading and guiding my thoughts, words, and actions throughout the day’s journey. Forgive me if my thoughts and actions were inconsistent with your will, and grant me more faith to follow where you lead me tomorrow. This night, grant me a much-needed rest from the challenges of the day. Renew and strengthen me to face tomorrow with more faith than I had today. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Daily Archives: December 20, 2021
Psalm 71:3-6, 16-17 (ESV)
3 Be to me a rock of refuge,
to which I may continually come;
you have given the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
4 Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.
5 For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
6 Upon you I have leaned from before my birth;
you are he who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you.
16 With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.
17 O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
Judges 13:2-7, 24-25 (ESV)
2 There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. And his wife was barren and had no children. 3 And the angel of the Lordappeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. 4 Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, 5 for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” 6 Then the woman came and told her husband, “A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. I did not ask him where he was from, and he did not tell me his name, 7 but he said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. So then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’” 24 And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the Lord blessed him. 25 And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.
Luke 1:5-25 (ESV)
Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty,9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
“…my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time” (Luke 1:20).
The Sahara Desert is a harsh, arid landscape with insufficient water and vegetations to sustain life. Bleak, rocky plateaus, vast sand dunes and extreme hot and cold temperatures convey a discouraging reality: no life, no growth, no fruit. Manoah and his wife, whose story is told in Judges, lived that disheartening reality; so did Zechariah and Elizabeth, whom we read about in today’s Gospel.
Perhaps you have a “barren” area in your life – unrealized dreams, fears, or wounds that keep you from living as fully as you might. Or maybe a prevailing discouragement that leaves you feeling inadequate in God’s eyes. If so, let this prayer become your own:
“Father, I believe that you can make the desert places in my life bloom like the Garden of Eden. I believe that you can bring life wherever there is barrenness. Come, Lord, and replace my doubt with belief and my fear with faith. As I await the birth of your Son, help me to remember your promise that I will flourish like grain and blossom like a fruit vine.
Lord, I feel like Zechariah in his season of waiting, worried about this barren area of my life. I do not see the fulfillment now, but I believe that it will come. I believe because you did it for Manoah and his wife, and you did it for Zechariah and Elizabeth. You did it for your people, the Israelites, when they were slaves in Egypt and again when they were in Exile in Babylon. And so I believe that you can do it for me.
Father, I proclaim that you are able. You are faithful and strong. You are worthy of my trust – because you are the same yesterday, today, and forever. By your Spirit, let these truths fill me with hope that you can and will bring life. You can and will take away all barrenness.”
Elizabeth waited. All of Israel waited. Manoah, whose name means “rest” or “quiet”, waited. So wait, in quiet and rest, before the Lord. God never makes a promise he won’t fulfill. You are not a desert. You are beloved by the Father, the One who brings life.
Father, water me with your Holy Spirit throughout this season. Bring life to my desert! Amen.