Week 1

Tom Harding

Silent night, holy night, 

All is calm, all is bright

'Round yon virgin Mother and Child

Holy infant so tender and mild

Sleep in heavenly peace

Inside the cards stress sunny words like love, good will, cheer, happiness and warmth. It is a fine thing I suppose, that we honor a sacred holiday with such homey sentiments. And yet, when I turn to the Gospel accounts of the first Christmas, I hear a very different tone and sense mainly disruption at work.

Luke 1:5 (NIV84) 

5 In the time of Herod king of Judea . . 

Luke 1:5–6 (NIV84) 

5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly.

Luke 1:7 (NIV84) 

7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years. 

Luke 1:8–10 (NIV84)

8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 

Luke 1:11–12 (NIV84)

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 

Luke 1:13–17 (NIV84) 

13 But the angel said to him: “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.  

14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. . . 17 And he will go on before the Lord. . . to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 

Luke 1:18 (NIV84) 

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” 

What have you stopped praying for?

Luke 1:19 (NIV84) 

19 The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 

Never doubt the human capacity to doubt.

Luke 1:20 (NIV84) 

20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.” 

Luke 1:67–80 (NIV84) 

68“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. 69He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David . . . 72to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant . . . 74to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear 75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 

76And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, 77to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, 7because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 

Keep praying—Talk to God

Keep obeying—Walk for God

Hebrews 11:1 (The Message) 

1–2 The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.