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He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 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. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 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.”
Luke 1:14-17
Points to Ponder:
In today’s passage of Scripture, Luke continues his account of the announcement concerning the birth of John the Baptist. The angel’s words brought the promise of changing the lives of this aged Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth in a wonderfully miraculous manner; indeed, what prospective parents at any wouldn’t thrill to be told the exact nature and purpose of the life of their forthcoming child?
But I believe this warm and fuzzy glimpse into the future was only a fraction of the point of the angel’s message, and likely not even the primary fraction at that. The joyous news of this coming baby – who would, in human terms, be a cousin to Jesus Christ – was delivered with specific instructions for Zechariah and Elizabeth to follow as they raised their son. In a fundamental way, those instructions apply Christian parents and any adults with children in their lives today.
The first hint of this truth should strike us when the angel states to Zechariah thay his son “will be great in the sight of the Lord.” That’s a statement direct from God that any parent can claim and should take seriously. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, we sing in Sunday school, and Jesus demonstrated as much Himself (see Matthew 18:5-6). Please don’t miss this twist to the statement, though: John will not gain greatness as a result of being the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. John’s greatness, instead, will be the direct result of his Heavenly Father filling his heart and soul with the Holy Spirit even before birth. The Holy Spirit, then will equip him to execute the mission for which God has carefully selected him.
The angel specifically instructs Zechariah that his forthcoming son is never to drink wine or strong drink. The child is also never to cut his hair. These particulars are specified because John is to take up the lifestyle of a Nazarite. Nazarites were Jews from the Old Testament era who were set apart from the Israelites as living their lives in complete dedication to serving God and His people. Their hair grew long and they refrained from the eating of grapes or the drinking of wine and other alcoholic drinks as a demonstration of their identities as committed servants of God.
Glance back at the closing lines of today’s passage. After these delivering the instructions for John’s life, the angel tells Zechariah that his son “will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God…will go before [Christ] in the spirit and power of Elijah … to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Do you see what the words of the angel imply to us today? This John, through word and deed, will expose to God’s people their need a Savior who will be identified as Jesus Christ, the promised Son of God. He will also proclaim that it is Christ alone through whom God’s people find salvation in His perfect life and innocent suffering and death.
While God may not tell us never to cut our children’s hair, His purpose for the lives of our children – and indeed for us – echoes His purpose for John. Our responsibility, like that of Zechariah and Elizabeth, is to raise children who share with the world the Good News of Christ. The Advent season offers us a perfect opportunity to ask that the Holy Spirit begin instilling this trait through our own example and shaping within our youth a behavior that develops into a year-round habit of sharing the Christ’s incarnation and preparing the way for His second coming.
What a fitting gift from us to our children: setting an example for these “great in the sight of the Lord” to count Him great in their sight and to place Him in the sight of others.
– Copyright 2016, Carole Anne Hallyburton. All Rights Reserved.
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Focus for Reflection:
Does the fact that Zechariah and Elizabeth were given specific instructions for raising a Godly child change your goals for influencing children as you wait expectantly for Christ’s second coming? How so?
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