Grace and Disgrace (December 3, 2012)

…Opening To…

Speech of an angel shines in the waters of her thought like diamonds,
Rides like a sunburst on the hillsides of her heart.
And is brought home like harvests,
Hid in her house, and stored
Like the sweet summer’s riches in our peaceful barns. (Thomas Merton)

…Listening In…

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they wondered why he was in the sanctuary for such a long time. When he came out, he was unable to speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he gestured to them and couldn’t speak. When he completed the days of his priestly service, he returned home. Afterward, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant. She kept to herself for five months, saying, “This is the Lord’s doing. He has shown his favor to me by removing my disgrace among other people.” (Luke 1:21-25; context)

…Filling Up…

The verses above close this portion of Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s story, but their story intertwines with Mary’s for the rest of Chapter One so, we’re not quite through with them yet. According to Luke, Zechariah was in the sanctuary longer than normal, considering the folks outside seem to be getting antsy. When he comes out unable to speak, their suspicions are confirmed: something has detained him. Something powerful enough to strike him dumb.

The power of God that takes Zechariah’s words away gives he and his wife something so much more wonderful. Elizabeth becomes pregnant. Until now she has been unable to bear children, and she has felt disgraced because of this inability. In her society, her barrenness meant being shunned. Indeed, I can hear other women whispering behind her back in the marketplace. When she becomes pregnant, her ignominy vanishes.

All of this happens on a personal level. Elizabeth feels vindicated, heard by God. On a larger, thematic level, Elizabeth’s statement speaks to the thesis of Luke’s entire account of the Gospel. “The Lord is working,” she says. “I can see the evidence in my own life.” The Lord works by removing her disgrace among other people. To turn this negative statement into a positive one, God shows her grace, which is another way of saying that God makes God’s presence known in her life. Isn’t that what the Gospel is about? And aren’t our lives about this same thing: being present to God even as God is present to us through grace.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you showed your power in the lives of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Send your grace upon me so that I may help to reveal your grace in the lives of those around me. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, thankful that I, too, am a player in the continued narrative of the Good News of your Son Jesus Christ.

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