Advent 2017: Joy to the World: Day 16

The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold


Today's Text: Luke 1:5-17, Isaiah 40:1-5, Malachi 3:1-4, Mark 1:1-8

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:5-17, Isaiah 40:1-5, Malachi 3:1-4, Mark 1:1-8

My sweet four-year-old girl nuzzled into my arms as I was putting her to bed, and said, “Momma, I have an important question for you. How many more days until Christmas?”

It was AUGUST.

As I dove into the text for today’s Advent reading, I was reminded of her childlike longing for Christmas to come. I know that as a kid it has a lot to do with getting presents, drinking hot chocolate, and eating Christmas cookies, but I believe there is something about that longing for Christmas that God has etched into our hearts. In our longings, big and small, we seem built for anticipation. And in the waiting, we can see how God wants His people to be prepared for their coming Rescuer. Through His prophet Malachi, the Lord promises to send one to lead them in their preparation:

“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.

- Malachi 3:1

I love that God knew we would need someone to tell us to pay attention. And so He sent John the Baptist, whose message would bring comfort even as it called us to “prepare the way for the Lord in the wilderness’” (Isaiah 40:1). God knew our distracted and discontented hearts would need to hear a voice to cut through the chaos of this world—a herald pointing to the good news to come, saying, “Don’t miss this!”

John’s story begins with two faithful parents, Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. “They had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years” (Luke 1:7). Yet suddenly, one day while Zechariah is serving as a priest before God, an angel appears to him with this joyous message:

“Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife, Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.”

- Luke 1:13

Can you imagine hearing this news? After being barren for the entirety of their marriage, a son is promised. Years of faithful service. Years of longing. Years of prayers for a child seemingly unanswered. And here, God promises a son, John, who will “make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17).

How fitting it is that the messenger who is helping God’s people prepare to meet the Messiah was born after years and years of his own parents’ waiting, longing, and hoping. It reminds me that there is a Messiah for those who are suffering silently from all kinds of broken dreams, deep wounds, and unmet longings. It reminds me that Jesus is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18), and our suffering in the wilderness isn’t the end of the story.

Do you find yourself in the desert today, facing the wilderness? Are there places in your heart that need tending to, places the Lord wants to prepare the way for His healing? Advent is a season of anticipation, one that invites us to make room for Immanuel in our hearts. That may look like giving ourselves some margin to rest and soak in His Word. Or it may mean turning to Him in repentance, allowing Him to tenderly search our hearts and root out remnants of unforgiveness and fear and doubt.

Whatever He’s calling us to, may we do it faithfully, so we can prepare even the hardest places in our lives to remember and be encouraged that the Lord we are seeking has indeed come. And may we be like expectant four-year-olds as we anticipate the celebration of the arrival of our Savior and Lord.


  • Elizabeth

    I was a little behind on some of my readings but apparently I saved the best for past. WOW! And what a word from Ellie. Thanks SRT❤️

  • Kasey Summers

    So good. Needed this.

  • Cari Mahan

    Sitting here reading the KING is coming…had to listen to christy nockles “the King is coming”. Perfect backdrop to our advent readings. Love these God moments in remembering His precious gift for our eternal freedom!

  • Natalie Reed

    Something that has stuck out to me this advent is the angel’s words to Zachariah. “Your prayer has been heard. You’re having a son.” Zachariah’s unbelief is understandable. When was the last time he had prayed for a child? It had probably been years. The angels words remind me that God always hears our prayers, even the ones we have stopped praying or given up on. It also reminds me that prayer is important and just because God doesn’t answer it in our timing doesn’t mean he won’t.

    • Dee

      Natalie, that is such a great point. God answers His way in His perfect timing. I never thought about the last time Zachariah had actually prayed that prayer.

      • Sarah

        Thanks for posting this thought. Truly needed that encouragement today.

  • I really needed this reminder this morning. Thank you

  • This is beautiful, thank you.

  • Kelsey Bender

    I really needed this. ❤️ I’m a pretty distracted person, but I think it’s amazing that God knows exactly what I need before I even do, including a reminder to stop and prepare.

  • Preparing and encouraged ♡

  • Kari Glemaker

    “Sent John the Baptist to tell us to pay attention. A voice to cut through the chaos of this world—Don’t miss this!” WOW!

  • What struck me most about today’s reflection is that Advent is about waiting for the healing – not the healing itself. At the end of a 14 months that has seen the loss of a dream job, unemployment, marriage, death of my mother, major surgery/cancer diagnosis of my father, buying and preparing to move into a new house, and plodding through a job I don’t much enjoy – I’m entering this Advent season desperate for healing. Unhappy about my job circumstances today, I turned to today’s reading to find some healing and instead found a reminder from John the Baptist’s life – that I need to patiently allow the Lord to prepare the way in my heart for healing. There is grief still deeply held and I want to rush the process and just “be happy” again – but over and over He has reminded me that this season is for waiting. Please pray for encouragement for my heart that has been hurting for so long and patience and trust in my Savior that He really can and will have a future and new story for me.

    • KimN

      Waiting is so hard AmyLou – praying for His peace and strength to envelop you in this season of your life. For grace to trust that He is working and fighting for you even when you can’t see what He is setting up for you. That the Holy Spirit would continue to work in your heart towards healing and surrender. He is for you and wastes nothing!! Don’t lose hope sister!! May He touch your heart and bless you today. Much love to you friend! Hugs xoxoxoxo

    • Christina D.

      Amylou I have nothing wise or sage to say. Only that I can relate and man, waiting is not my strong suit and most especially when the waiting involves pain and discomfort. Thank you for sharing and for the wisdom that comes from realizing that advent is about the waiting, not the gift or healing or light at the end of the tunnel. Praying that we will both feel God’s presence in the waiting and trust that the pain and grief will pass but that we can also find grace and learn more of our savior before we get through it.

  • Kim Pullman

    Love this one! Took a few minutes to think on the questions posed and could feel God moving. Trust in the wilderness, he is with us and his character is true. It’s so hard to wait on God with my fallible human heart but this reading reminds me of the necessity AND the reward

  • Debra Kannan

    I love the thought of the Lord coming to those who have had unmet dreams & hopes. He comes and rewards Zechariah’s faith.

  • Prayers please! I need to allow Immanuel into my desert place of broken dreams, deep wounds, and unmet longings. He’s my Saviour, my Comfortor, my Peace!

  • I’ve been wrestling around in my head and heart the thought of “making a highway for the Lord through the desert.”
    From what I’ve heard and read, the desert is a constantly changing landscape due to the shifting sand moved by breeze or sandstorm. So if my heart is a highway for the Lord and my life is the desert, there will need to be some maintenance on that highway. Once the highway is made it will always be affected by desert. Whether it’s a slight covering of sand to an entire dune blocking the way, I need to be aware and actively working to keep it clear. “To fill the valleys and knock down the hills.”
    To be constantly seeking the One who made a way for me. Opening myself to the Spirit and taking action when led. To remove, not just go around, the obstacles that keep the highway from being straight and smooth. And realizing I can never do that all on my own. Taking the strength offered to me in my utter and complete weakness.
    Thank you Lord Jesus. Come, O come, Immanuel

    • Emily B.

      That’s a great analogy of the images in these verses. Thank you for sharing it!

    • Alyssa

      Thank you so much for sharing this! What an incredible illustration and insight.
      Personally, I am still struggling with the word “highway”. I checked the translations to see if a different word was used in any of them that might make the meaning a little bit more clear, but surprisingly they all used the same word. I am thinking that the word is intended sort of like you described it: a path for the Lord that is clear and free of obstructions. But, a path that will still require our purposeful upkeep and maintenance, especially in the desert, to make a way for the Lord.
      Regardless, I loved your expansion of the metaphor. Thank you so much for sharing it!

  • These were same scriptures from church yesterday!! Pastor spoke on being messengers! We are Christs messengers today!! Share His Love, His Gospel!! Share the joy of Christmas!

  • Pamela Keyes

    I loved the part of our study today, “Whatever he is calling us to, may we do it faithfully…”. My prayer, as I work in ministry, is that I always give my all faithfully.

  • Crystal Mendez

    I needed this call to hope this morning! Allowing Immanuel into our desert places (pain, fear, sin, doubt, un-forgiveness, etc.) will bring about deeper relationship with Him, greater trust in His character, and more hopeful anticipation of His coming.

    • amylou

      I love how you phrased this – it helped things “click” for me. I copied your words into my journal today to accompany my other thoughts. Thank you!

  • and are suffering in the wilderness isn’t the end of the story. Thank you Ellie for that. It’s what I needed to hear this morning. This Christmas season is so different for my family. Most of you here know that I am separated from my husband. Kids are with me. And through all this I am reminded how much we are loved. I was handed an anonymous blessing. A Christmas blessing!

  • Micah Lee

    I love Christmas. I love the family and the season and advent at church. The anticipation for something so much greater is overwhelming to think about!

  • I love advent and this season – even though I feel heavily distracted before it. I love how Jesus pulls on our hearts to pay attention! He wants to show up in our lives even more today than yesterday. I am thankful for this community and the reminder to pay attention and the offer to dive into His word each day. Such a blessing!

  • Today’s devotional really gave petspective on how often we tend to look our wandering in the wilderness, rather than seeking and antisipating the sunrise. After a long weekend, these were the words I needed to hear. Thank you God for your promises and sunrises!

  • Not to take this in a different direction, but one thing that struck me with these passages today is God’s commitment to legacy. We are told that Elizabeth was of the daughters of Aaron, and if Zechariah was a priest then he was a Levite, and also a descendant if Aaron. Aaron was the guy who among other things gave the Israelites a golden statue to worship when they got tired of waiting for Moses to come off the mountain. But Aaron’s descendant got to give the news that the One True King was here – the priest who offered the ultimate sacrifice and then sat down at the right hand of God. I love God’s attention to detail and commitment to legacy, His ability to redeem in the most personal and epic ways the ones who screw up. Malachi 3:3 “He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver.” Jesus totally purified Aaron’s legacy with Zechariah/Elizabeth/John. He can redeem even our stories, too.

    • Jjfromke

      that’s cool. Thanks for sharing

    • Gina

      Great insight. Oh, blessed Redeemer!

    • joyjoy

      Wow that is beautiful to me. Not a coincidence that yours is the first comment up on the feed (for me) this morning. I was struck by this that goes along with your thought, when Gabriel says to Zechariah about JtB in Luke, “…and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” John the B continuing their legacy! How many of us are praying for this to happen in hearts of those we love?! HE does it! Such grace… such freedom. Only Jesus.

      • Laine Smith

        Good point! My husband has been preaching through a Christmas series talking about the lineage that Jesus chose. It’s amazing who he chose to be part of his lineage: Tamar- a Canaanite who was sexually abused and treated so poorly, Rahab-a Canaanite prostitute, Ruth-a Moabite who came from the incestuous lineage of Lot. Everything about how he came to earth screams humility and redemption for the least of us.

      • Sabrina

        Thank you for this insight. Brings light to a place of God’s grace, redemption, and plan I’ve not been aware of until now.

    • Kristin

      Great historical insight, thank you for sharing!! Now to pray for the legacy of God writing my families story of faith and living for His glory.

    • Ruth

      Your insight brings me such comfort, as I pray and hope for family members who need salvation and redemption. Thank you for your comment.

    • Tracy

      Wow, so cool! He can redeem our stories too. Even better! Thank you for your insight!!

  • Karen From Virginia

    It’s precious to me to read of the second advent as God has been speaking to me about this and why I have so much longing at Christmas. I want to know Jesus more. I’m praying He restores my grieving heart from loosing my sister int the summer as I’ve been really sad this past week but also thatHe would draw and restore many around me who need Jesus to move in their lives. Hope. Hope in the Savior for this new year.

    • Shannon H

      Praying the Lord will comfort you in your sadness, and that your sadness will remind you of the day when Jesus will return and make all things new and unbroken again. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

    • I lost my sister this summer as well. We were polar opposites in so many ways, but still I find it a struggle. This season of anticipation reminds me will be together again. I pray for Jesus to comfort you in your wait.

    • I am praying for you Karen.

    • amylou

      Karen, I remember you lost your sister this summer a few days apart from my losing my mom; every time I see your posts I feel we’re kindred spirits. :) I feel the same way this Christmas season, desperate for some healing. Thank you for sharing your hurt (those of us who are also grieving know we are not alone) and for sharing your hope. ♥️

  • “Our suffering in the wilderness isn’t the end of the story.” What a blessed reminder that any place without God is lonely wilderness! When we try to get by without Christ in our hearts, we will never flourish. Christmas is a reminder to call our hearts back from the wilderness, nurture the seeds of faith deeply in our souls once again, and receive the forgiveness He came to earth to give us. Hallelujah!

  • Lakeisha Bing

    I love this devotional. It brought me back and caused me to pause and pray with great anticipation of what this precious season truly means.

  • Churchmouse

    How gracious of God to send John the Baptist to tell the world that Jesus was coming. How gracious of God to give us His Word to tell the world that Jesus is coming… again. The question is whether or not the world is listening. May those of us who have heard and believe, now live like it. Fear not. Hope lives.

  • What if I looked in anticipation to the birth of Christ each year, just like Ellie’s daughter was excited for Christmas?

    I love how Ellie compared the desert to any personal struggles and trials we might be facing, just like John the Baptist’s parents had faced for many years. This season, as we are SO near to Christmas, I hope that God will begin to fulfill His promises of healing in my deserts as we “prepare” for the celebration of His coming!

  • Rebecca Leek

    Wow I love how Ellie talks about preparation during eager anticipation. I hope we all have time today to soak in His Word and prepare our hearts, and feel a child like excitement for Christmas Day!

  • Love how Ellie points out that a) we would need someone to tell us to Pay Attention and b) John’s parents would be those who had waited and longed for a son. It really show just how well God knows our hearts and how we are made.

Further Reading...