LUKE’S CHRISTMAS GOSPEL OF JESUS: A 30-Day Christmas-Time Devotional.
When God Wants to Get Our Attention.
Luke 1: 5-12 (MsgB)
 During the rule of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest assigned service in the regiment of Abijah. His name was Zachariah. His wife was descended from the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth.  Together they lived honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God.  But they were childless because Elizabeth could never conceive, and now they were quite old.  It so happened that as Zachariah was carrying out his priestly duties before God, working the shift assigned to his regiment,  it came his one turn in life to enter the sanctuary of God and burn incense.  The congregation was gathered and praying outside the Temple at the hour of the incense offering.  Unannounced, an angel of God appeared just to the right of the altar of incense.  Zachariah was paralyzed in fear.
As I understand Hebrew tradition, a godly man such as Zachariah would be given only one opportunity in his entire lifetime to enter into the Holy of Holies in God’s Temple, offering burned incense to God on behalf of God’s people. Now that may not seem like much to us twenty-first century folks, but to Zach, this was the pinnacle of his life. For him, and his family, this was his 15 minutes of fame. His opportunity to take his bow in front of his peers and associates.
I suppose the closest we can come to appreciating this scenario is to think of astronauts who spend years training and equipping themselves for their one trip into space. Whether it be the early moon voyages of the 1960’s and 70’s or a trip to the international space station today, this type of training is so demanding, every little detail needs to be practiced again and again, just so the actual run goes flawlessly.
Or, if space travel doesn’t trip your trigger, how about pondering on the long-suffering endurance it takes for talented athletes to train tirelessly for years, just so they can perform their athletic feats on the world stage once in a lifetime at the Olympics? Day after day, these men and women train not only their bodies but also their minds, preparing themselves in every way so that when their golden moment arrives, it will all come together in such a way the result will be a gold, silver, or bronze medal hanging from their neck.
So it must have been for Zachariah.
I can imagine that Zach spent many hours listening to the high priest as he explained the exact number of steps he needed to take to get to the altar of God. There was no room for error in this exercise. No do-overs. No mistakes. This was a solemn and holy opportunity, and one false step, and bang, the fire of God could consume you. That’s exactly why the priest who was assigned the duty of burning incense tied a long rope around his waist. At the end of that rope was a little set of bells that jingled as the appointed man gingerly walked into the Holy of Holies. As long as the priests outside the holy place heard the ring-a-ding-dinging, they knew their friend was doing A-OK with his priestly mission. But, if the jingling stopped or the rope went slack for too long, the priests knew something on the mission had gone wrong and they needed to pull that poor sucker out of there, dead or alive.
So, old Zach has all of his ducks in a row as he prepares to enter the Holy of Holies. He’s prayed up. He’s confessed all the sins he knows to confess. He might have even thrown in a few that he hadn’t done, just so he was clear to walk around in God’s Holy presence!
And isn’t it just like God to interrupt this holy moment with His own unique brand of interruption?
An angel. One big angel.
Suddenly appearing out of nowhere. Just like angels do.
Just to the right of the altar.
Zach was paralyzed in fear. Not only because he saw an angel, but more importantly, this angel-thing wasn’t anywhere on his planning charts! I mean, no one told him to expect an angel! What’s standard operating procedure for this?
Knowing it wouldn’t be good to look for the owner’s manual at this point, Zach does what most of us would do. He freezes.
Fortunately, he didn’t panic. But needless to say, Zach finds himself in one interesting pickle.
And so, Luke starts his Christmas story by saying suddenly, out of the blue, normal operating procedure has now been interrupted. God’s standard of worship in the temple, which has been in place for nearly 2,000 years at this point, is suddenly being shaken up with an angelic interruption!
My, my. God really has an interesting way of getting our attention, doesn’t He?
My prayer: Thank You, Lord, for the reminder that when You act on our behalf, it many times comes through sudden, unexpected interruptions to our organized, calculated lives. Help me, Lord, to give You the liberty of moving in any way You choose, making room for Your power and presence to accomplish all that You desire to do in and through me. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: While preparation and planning is an important aspect of the Christian life, how might I have over-prepared and pre-planned in such a way that I don’t make room for daily interruptions by God? What ways has God interrupted me in the past and how open am I for Him doing that again in order for His will to made clearer in my life?
So what is God speaking to you today? Are you practicing the Kingdom presence of God?
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