Sunday Week 3 of Advent- Birth of Christ
Updated: Jan 7
Angel’s Announcement to Zechariah
This week's focal passages focus on the birth of Christ: Angel’s Announcement to Zechariah, Gabriel’s Announcement to Mary, The Magnificat (Song of Mary), The Benedictus (Zechariah’s Song), Jesus’ Birth, Angels Appear to the Shepherds and Jesus Presented at the Temple.
Annunciation to Zechariah, Ethiopian Bible (1700 AD)
Author Unkown; British Library
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.
8 Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 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. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Annunciation to Zechariah
1798 fragment of Russian icon
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days He has shown His favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
What are three things Luke tells us about Zechariah and Elizabeth in verses 5-7?
[They were both descended from priestly families;They were devout;They were childless.]
In Biblical times, it was considered proof of God’s pleasure to provide a couple with many children. Childlessness was obvious proof of His dissatisfaction with them. In verse 13, Gabriel announces that Zechariah’s prayer has been heard.
How do you know the difference between a prayer the Lord wants you to continue to pray, and one to which He has said ‘No, I have other plans for you’?
He wants us to be persistent in our prayer life (1 Thessalonians 5:17 and Luke 18:1-8), but expects us to ask according to His will (1 John 5:14-15), and not to ask for frivolous or selfish things (James 4:3).]
When Gabriel appeared to Zechariah in the temple, this would be the first time in 400 years that the Lord had spoken directly to someone on earth.* If that were not enough, he informs Zechariah that a 4000 year old promise would now be fulfilled (Genesis 3:15), and that his son would be the one to prepare the way for this Promised One.
What does this tell us about God’s timetable compared to ours? And His faithfulness to fulfill all that He promises?
[Sometimes He takes a long time, but His timing is perfect for fulfilling His promises (Romans 8:28).]
In verse 17, Gabriel alludes to the prophecy spoken of by Malachi (Malachi 4:5-6).
[He would have a similar ‘spirit and power’ as that of Elijah (impacting Israel similarly).
They both wore a garment of hair with a leather belt and lived a similarly austere lifestyle.]
Before this, scripture only mentions Gabriel appearing to Daniel (Daniel 8:15, 9:21). He and Michael are the only angels mentioned in scripture by name (besides Lucifer).
Why does Gabriel rebuke Zechariah?
[He was in effect asking for a sign, as if the presence of a mighty angel sent straight from God was not‘proof’ enough of the words spoken.]
What sign does Gabriel give Zechariah?
[He renders Zechariah mute until the fulfillment of the angel’s words.]
*There were Four Hundred Years of Silence between the last book of the OT (Malachi) and the first book of the NT (Matthew). At the beginning of the four hundred years, Israel had returned to Palestine from captivity in Babylon. Israel was then under the rule of the Medo-Persian Empire which was the world super power of its day. At the end of the Four Hundred Years of Silence, Israel is under the crush of the Roman Empire, the newest dominant power on earth.
Close in Prayer
What are some things you've been praying about for a long time? What can we learn from the lives of Zechariah and Elizabeth about dealing with difficult, long-term disappointments? Pray for patience and trust as you wait on the Lord in faith that He will bring His purposes and perfect will to pass in your situation.
Make a Joyful Sound!
Choose a song from Songs for Advent Week 3 or choose your own.