Advent 2017: Joy to the World: Day 20

The Birth of John the Baptist

by

Today's Text: Luke 1:57-80

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:57-80

As I write this, I am 38.5 weeks pregnant… so, fairly miserable. If you’ve ever been in these shoes you know how uncomfortable I am. Everything hurts, I can’t bend over, and my primary method of communication with friends and family entails texts utilizing either the “rage face” emoji or gifs of very overweight cats. I’ve left my last two doctor’s appointments crying hysterically because I’M STILL PREGNANT. I’ve never been more impatient than this, anxiously awaiting the sweet relief of birth—and, of course, meeting our new baby.

And so, when I read about Elizabeth and Zechariah and the birth of their son, I feel every wave of their words and emotions. I know my own anticipation must be nothing compared to that of the barren Elizabeth and the mute Zechariah. I am humbled by their story. I wrestle with my own selfishness every day, shame filling my anxious heart, because I know there are so many who would give anything to be in my position. I imagine Elizabeth might’ve felt that way in the years leading up to her own pregnancy and the birth of her son.

Advent is our waiting season.

Maybe you’re waiting for a baby to be conceived or born or for an older child to come home. Maybe you’re waiting for healing or love, for reconciliation or freedom. If we’re honest, we’re all waiting for something. And collectively, whether we know it or not, we’re waiting for Jesus to come again, longing for the wrongs of this world to be made right. We live an everyday Advent, longing for the final, triumphant return of our King.

When he prophesies, Zechariah sings the song of an Advent people. He sings of the Lord’s steadfast faithfulness, and he knows it to be true. He blesses the Lord, remembering the Old Testament covenants that have brought the Jews to this point, recounting the promises God made to Abraham, to David, and to His people. They have been waiting 400 years to hear from the Lord, and even longer since Isaiah first told them a Messiah would come. They knew what it was to wait.

And then Zechariah prophesies over his baby son with a prayer I’ve adopted for my own children, and for my own calling:

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of his salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace.”
- Luke 1:76-79

Could that be our cry, our prayer, and our calling too? Just as John the Baptist would prepare the way for the incarnate Christ, we ought to adopt his mission as our own, harkening to the day when our Jesus will come again, giving knowledge of His salvation to those who don’t yet know Him. In doing so, we await His return with purpose, spreading the good news of our precious Savior to all who will hear.

Elizabeth waited. The Jewish people waited. And we wait too. But we know our King is coming, just as we’re sure of the coming sunrise—to give light to those who sit in darkness, and to guide our feet in the way of peace.

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Melanie Rainer is the director of content for JellyTelly, where she writes and edits family spiritual formation resources. She is a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, a passionate home baker, and makes her always-messy home with her husband, Price, and their delightful daughter, Ellie, near historic downtown Franklin, Tennessee.

  • The wait. Wow. Such a powerful message, and yet there is much work to be done in our wait. I love the thought that Zechariah’s cry is ours – a decision to keep leading people to Jesus. I believe it!

  • Lord give us grace for the wait. What an amazing study. Reading all these prophecies about the bruth of our saviour has taken on new meaning for me. Lord help me to be more deliberate in sharing your salvation with others.

  • Israel waiting 400 years for a Word from God..Zechariah and Elizabeth waiting their whole lives for a son…and now us, 21st century Christians eating for the return of the King who is the only one capable of bringing justice and everlasting peace on earth…

    I have to say friends, don’t give up, don’t give in to a lesser Christianity of TV talking heads and Facebook Rants about the country…we who are waiting must seek to follow the Lord to the ends of the earth (or just around the corner to our neighbors) and not put lesser things on a pedestal before him- not family, not country, not friends following us on Facebook and Snapchat. This is the miracle I pray for this Christmas. For my own heart to be awakened to the tender mercies and Of God and his Wholly Otherness –His Holiness–to which I must submit and say “I have uttered what I did not understand, things to wonderful for me, which I didn’t know”. Job 42:3.

  • Crystal Mendez

    Even as we wait, may we be attentive to the people God has placed in our lives today to be their John the Baptist, pointing them to Jesus and the great mercy of the Father!

  • To lost one: sounds like you would benefit talking to counselor for post abortion experience. May you find the forgiveness to free you. God is good.

  • Natasha Pavez

    Praying for my calling in the waiting seasons… it’s hard and I am struggling. Please pray for me if you can. I’m longing for my relationship with God to be renewed.

  • Hi there – Thank you for being vulnerable and authentic on here. While I do not have advice, I want to encourage you to give yourself GRACE as you walk through this season – God’s plan will unfold regardless. Keep the faith and trust in HIM and HIS promises. XO

  • As I read through everyone’s comments below and the scripture for today I can’t help but wonder…

    Why is it that I don’t want children? I know God wants us to be fruitful and multiply, but I am selfish I feel. I want my husband to myself and I don’t want to share him right now. For once in my life, I have someone who wants to spend time with me and laugh with me and aside from God.. I am their focus.

    (Background; I grew up in an abusive drunken household told I was worthless, etc with some good memories but the negative tend to stick around)

    I rather pray for those who are trying to conceive, whom actually want children.. rather than me get pregnant. I’ve noticed due to that mindset, sex is not fun for me anymore (in all honesty). I’m petrified.

    Is it because I punish myself due to a disappointing mistake (I feel of having a positive pregnancy test) where I made a couple years ago pre-marriage where I aborted and don’t feel I deserve because I didn’t want a child then because I wasn’t married/my boyfriend did not want to be a father.. I don’t know.

    I pray about it. Sure past decisions harbor inside me, but pregnancy petrifies me and makes me uneasy.. I have a Mirena to avoid pregnancy but isn’t birth control frowned upon? My philosophy is if I constantly have the Mirena and get pregnant then that must be God’s way of saying I should be a mother.

    Womanly advice or constructive criticism.

    • Kristen

      I’m praying for you that God would reveal His heart to you. I wonder, have you ever asked God to forgive you and have you ever forgiven yourself for that past decision? God died for us while we were still sinners. He loves you.

    • Becky

      I don’t have any advice, other than to spend time with God and listen each day for his leading. There is a purpose for the season you are in right now, and He is the only way of finding peace and meaning in it. Merry Christmas. Peace be with you and much love to you today.

    • Meg

      Lost one, it sounds like this goes deeper than not wanting to get pregnant. The gospel I follow tells me that, while we’re undeserving of Gods love and favor- he freely gives it to us because we are all worth it and so loved by Him. God honors a truly repentant heart and he’s left your sin in the past. You should too. And my prayer for your is that one day you can. Because you are not worthless sister, and he loves you so much.

    • Anna B

      Praying for you Lost One…thats a difficult place to be. Remember, He loves you regardless of. your past sins. If you have asked forgiveness, then you have to believe that He has given it to you. Believe is an action word and it might take praying over and over about it and walking in faith to know that He has forgiven you. Don’t let the enemy still your joy or allow him to sneak in thoughts of guilt…that is not from God.
      I also encourage you to reach out to a christian counselor. They might be able to help make sense of why you feel the way you do and to help you unpack some stuff from your childhood. Sex is a sweet gift He gives to marriage and a gift you can give to your husband.

      Praying for your healing and for freedom to walk away from yuck memories from the past. Praying that you will be able to start a new life inJoy and peace, because thats what He wants to give you! You have a precious story that one day can help minister to others, praying for you!

    • Karen

      Lost One, there is a Bible study called “Forgiven and Set Free” by Linda Cochrane for women who are post abortion. There is a lot of emotional pain for many women after an abortion. I don’t know where you live, but in Oklahoma City, there is a Bible study/support group for this at the Hope Pregnancy Center. There may be something like that where you live. God loves you and wants to heal your pain. Praying for you. (Karen in OKC)

    • Jodee

      There is nothing wrong with your thoughts. You for now know what you want and need. There is nothing wrong with putting you and your husband first. Please don’t let another ever shame you. I feel things happen for a reason. Sometimes we have to just walk with blind faith. I too have been in your shoes and due to a inherited disease that would had ultimately caused great pain then death at a young age well we lost our son. Yes I call it lost not the other word. Now 9 years later I’m the mother of healthy twins. God works wonders. Just be strong, keep close to your husband and I know you will have peace. Take care!

    • Shirlie

      I just wanted to share this book with you. Although, your circumstances are different from that of the main character, her mother’s and grandmother’s experiences are similar to yours. It’s just a story but it’s beautifully written and full of God’s truth and grace. I pray that as you read it you will know that Jesus has the power to forgive all of your sins and that you would allow him to take the weight of them from you. God bless

      http://francinerivers.com/books/the-atonement-child/

  • God is always at work.

  • Jennifer Anapol

    I love the idea of praying this over our children and our own lives! I pray that as we wait for our Savior’s second coming, we would use this time wisely to witness to those around us.

  • Monica Swanson

    Beautiful new look here at SRT…love the message today, and praying for you Melanie!! God’s timing is perfect. Be blessed!!

  • Caralee Lilly

    As my daughter is constantly on my heart and mind,I pray that as John was in the wilderness preparing him to proclaim the coming of Christ, that pray she too, and us as a family, are being prepared to rejoice in His healing of our lives. Oh that her wilderness will lead her home soon.

  • Carrie Rogers

    Praise God! Amen!

  • We are having a different Christmas this year as well. It’s the first without my sister, Lisa, who passed away in July. We also decided we’d only do gifts for the kids. In some ways it’s been very freeing to be able to focus on just Jesus. It surprises me to find myself desolving into tears for no reason I can name. The verses that spoke to me this morning are Luke 1:73b-75…we get to serve the Lord without fear, in holiness & righteousness in His presence all our days. How truly blessed are we.

  • Julie Lee

    I love the idea of praying Zechariah’s prophecy over my own children!

  • Bubblemom

    I just fixed my bubbemom name. It’s supposed to be bubblemom. Holy smokes.

  • Christmas is looking different for us as well. I really like one of our sisters commented above about focusing on the true meaning of Christmas or not and what we won’t be experiencing this year. Thank you dear Kelly for those wise words. It’s what I needed to hear this morning. Dear sisters if you could all please pray for my son Caleb. Today is his last day of finals and it’s one of his hardest classes ever! It’s his math class and his grade is very low. He’s even contemplated the the unthinkable as a mother I told him it’s not worth it and that he needs to do the best he can. He’s been going through a lot these last few months as his dad and I continue to be separated. I have full and legal custody of both my kids for the next few months.

    • Mari

      “and” (not “or”) I try so hard not to make typos

    • Brooke

      Praying for you and your family Mari. Praying for wisdom and discernment, praying for support from the people God has intricately lined up to cross paths with you, your son, your daughter and your husband in this season. Praying for healing and rest when it all feels too overwhelming. He sees you and your family.

  • Ashli Rouw

    This was absolutely beautiful. I can relate to the feeling of being pregnant and reminding myself of the honor it is to be pregnant whereas so many women want to carry for themselves. I’m grateful God blesses us all in His ways for our own lives and paths.

    What I will walk away with is the truth you speak of “could this be our callings as well…” lose quote. I will pray this over my children like you said. Perfect words from Luke 1 to claim over my children to make way for Christ’s second coming! #soMotivated

  • Just took a negative pregnancy test for the 9th month since our miscarriage. My heart feels raw like every month, but especially this month with the desire for God to “redeem” this year somehow with the gift of a healthy pregnancy. Everything is a reminder that we are barren.
    I don’t think the timing of this devotion is a coincidence. Advent is for waiting. Lord, help me to focus on Your redemption and promise in this season, not my own lack. And I pray for every woman who may be in this place this season, for our feet to be guided in peace and our longing to be met by Christ’s love.

    • Kelli

      My heart is with you Emily. But even more so God is with you in this season of waiting. I am praying you continue to find your daily strength in the Lord, that he would be your comfort and your rock in your Advent.

    • Erin

      Emily, I’m with you in the same season of waiting following a miscarriage. I know the same longing of redemption you feel. Prayers for you today to find peace in this season. Know you aren’t alone!

    • Bubbemom

      I’m praying for you Emily. Be encouraged, I only have a half uterus (high infertility and high miscarriage rate) and I have 3 children. My 1st at 38 and my twins, yes twins at 42. All naturally conceived. God had a plan and It was spectacular. I have 3 beautiful, healthy children and they are gifts. Thank Him and praise Him for His perfect timing and ways. Graham Cooke calls this “active waiting”. Blessings sister.

    • Becky

      Blessings to you Emily. Don’t lose hope. I spent four years in devastating infertility, with miscarriages and loss, and now 10 years later I’m sitting in front of a Christmas tree with tons of presents wrapped in kid paper. Three beautiful boys, both natural and otherwise. Hope does not disappoint. Beauty can be found in the waiting. You will find that He is good, all the time.

      • Emily

        aw thank you for sharing, Becky! It is encouraging to hear God’s faithfulness!

  • Churchmouse

    All of Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s family and friends had gathered for the circumcision and naming of their long awaited son. This rite was a big deal in their culture. It was assumed that this first born son would be named in honor of his father. But Zechariah stands firm and names him John. In the midst of this gathering Zechariah did not give in to peer pressure or go along with what was expected but he named his son as the Lord had told him. As we gather with our family and friends in just a few days may we speak the Lord’s truth as we have opportunity – and with loving tenderness. May we promote more than good will but God’s will.

  • Come Lord Jesus!

  • Tracy Sims

    What glorious thoughts! Waiting on our King to arrive! Thank you for sharing!

  • Kelly Chataine

    May we all grow and become strong in spirit, especially when we find ourselves in wilderness type situations.
    Praising God for the many, many miracles! Seeking God’s strength because I am weary. It has been a long journey, over 10 weeks away from home and in the hospital, but we are nearing my husband’s homecoming. Once home my husband’s recovery will continue.
    Trying to focus upon the true meaning of Christmas and not on what I won’t be experiencing this year.

  • Kelly Chataine

    May we all grow and become strong in spirit, especially when we find ourselves in wilderness type situations.
    I will leave tomorrow morning to spend the next week with my husband in the rehab facility. He hasn’t been home since the morning of October 10th. Praising God for the many, many miracles! Seeking God’s strength because I am weary. It has been a long journey but we are nearing his homecoming. Once home his recovery will continue.

    • IAB

      Kelly- praying for you this upcoming week – for hope to begin to show to you and your husband for new growth and new story to begin in the recovery – for your words to speak out truth and life move your husband – will be keeping you in my thoughts and prayers

  • So thankful for the reminder of our mission while we are waiting…I await His return with purpose!

  • I definitely want the prayer of Zechariahs to be the prayer of my life as well.May the Lord use us all in this present age to clear the way for His coming, and help people clearly understand the beautiful message of the Gospel… led by the Holy Spirit, unhindered by any obstacles, and untainted (with no hint of man’s philosophy or ideas).

  • God has lifted my spirit and led me to the light. It is truly a Christmas miracle. I praise the Lord and his sweet grace.

    Tonight, I will pray for you and baby during delivery ❤️

  • Melanie, what a wonderful time ahead! Praying God’s awesome hand over you all as you wait for the arrival of your gift from the Maker… Every blessing! Xxxx

    I remember clearly those last weeks of pregnancy… feeling as though I could wait no longer for this gift being entrusted to me to arrive… yet the wait was over, ended…some 40, 36, 27 years later still thankful for the little toes, button noses, the tiny bundle that grew into the amazing human being… Thank you Lord.. always, thank you Lord from deep within my soul.

    Elizabeth waited. The Jewish people waited. And we wait too…. Tina waits. But we know our King is coming, just as we’re sure of the coming sunrise—to give light to those who sit in darkness, and to guide our feet in the way of peace….

    The wait will soon be over… in the meantime…God with us…Amen.

    Happy Friday my dears, praying our Father God turn His face to shine over you and yours… With blessings aplenty. Xxx

    • Jeanna

      Waiting, a time of waiting. Yes, waiting. That can be the hard part…. waiting on the very promises that have been birthed in our hearts. Blessings to you, Tina. Thank you for your words.

    • Alisa

      Tina, I rarely comment, but I always read them and every single time I’m so encouraged by yours. It feels like you’re sitting across from me sipping tea and we are working through these studies/devotionals together. ❤️

    • Mari

      Blessings to you as well Tina.

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