This series of posts for Advent is based on the lectionary readings for each Sunday.
The second week of Advent is sometimes called the week of preparation–a time to reflect on the ways God prepared us for the coming of God’s son, Jesus. The Jewish people had been under the rule of other nations for many years; they had been separated from their land and each other but were promised that God would send a deliverer. Isaiah tells of a sign: “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and she shall call His name Immanuel,” (Isaiah 7:14). In Micah we read, “O Bethlehem, you are but a small Judean village, yet you will be the birthplace of my King who is alive from everlasting ages past,” (Micah 5:2).
Zacharias was a priest married to a woman named Elizabeth. Both were recognized as good people before God. One day the angel Gabriel appeared to Zacharias and told him that Elizabeth, who was quite old, would bear a son. Further, the son should be named John and he would be filled with the Holy Spirit. When Zacharias questioned Gabriel, he was struck silent because of his disbelief. But, in time, Elizabeth gave birth to a son and her family rejoiced with her. When Zacharias affirmed Elizabeth’s decision to name the child John he regained his speech and praised God:
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them…And 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, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace,” (Luke 1:68-29, NIV, excerpted).
John prepared the people for the one who was promised. He called the people to repentance and told them another would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. He later baptized Jesus, saw the spirit of God descending as a dove and heard the voice saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased,” (Matthew 3:17, NRSV).
As you prepare for Christmas, are there women or girls in your neighborhood or your church who need to be included in your holiday plans? Instead of giving a gift that will be used and forgotten, have you considered making a contribution in their name to an organization that helps women and girls? Have you considered purchasing gifts from sources that provide needed income to women struggling to simply survive? Is this the year to include newcomers in your holiday plans? Some of my family’s most memorable holidays were those we spent with friends from other countries who shared their holiday traditions around the dinner table.
This Christmas, let’s not forget to focus on God’s gift of Jesus, to renew ourselves spiritually and to share our joy and hope with others.
Ellen Teague serves as Coordinator of the Eastern Section for American Baptist Women’s Ministries and is executive director of the District of Columbia Baptist Convention (DCBC) Foundation.