People are getting ready for Christmas.
Putting up the Christmas tree. Hanging up lights. Buying presents.
But how do you get your heart ready for Christmas?
Usually, people skip over the birth story of John the Baptist in Luke 1 in order to get to the birth story of Jesus. But John's parents-- Zechariah and Elizabeth-- have much to teach us.
As the story opens, Luke tells us that Zechariah and Elizabeth are Jews par excellence. Zechariah is a priest in the Jerusalem Temple. Elizabeth's family background is the priestly line of Aaron. "Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly," Luke tells us in 1:6. Everything about their lives outstanding, except for one thing. They have no children, which at that time was a social disgrace. Imagine, they were "well off" in so many ways, richly blessed by God, yet they had their own unrelenting burden.
But God acts to fill their lives. When Zechariah gets the privilege of offering incenses to God in a private room inside the sanctuary, he gets an incredible surprise. An angel appears to him and announces that his wife will have a son and this child will help prepare the way for the coming of Messiah.
Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." Apparently, his question was full of doubt. The angel mildly rebukes Zechariah and renders him speechless until the time that his son is born. Meanwhile, when Elizabeth does become pregnant, Luke quotes her saying, "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people."
How do we get our hearts ready for Christmas?
By being open. Be open to God's activity.
Zechariah was an upright man who fulfilled all of God's commands. And yet, when God announced that he would have a son who would get Israel ready for the Lord's coming, Zechariah was unable or unwilling to receive the news. Though godly, he wasn't open, and thus wasn't ready when God acted. On the other hand, Elizabeth was open and ready. Though she was beyond child bearing years, God enabled her pregnancy, and she rejoices in God's activity, declaring the Lord has shown her favor and taking away her shame.
How can we be open to God's activity? Be open to serve. Be open to love. Be open to share. We may not realize it, but God's Spirit is moving. Today. Now. People need a Savior. You who know Jesus are God's exclusive vessel in the world. Be God's light. Be open. And be ready.
You never know what God might do.