The beginning of Luke's Gospel is so different from the others. And today we have the beginning sentence and than the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth and Gabriel's first appearance, this time to Zechariah in the temple sanctuary. Zechariah has trouble believing and is struck mute, but that doesn't stop God's plan for this couple: the announcement of their son, John, and his work of preparation.
A number of things to take note of in this story: the comparison of Zechariah's response to Gabriel, and Mary's, which comes tomorrow (and was yesterday's Gospel in church). We should also note how Gabriel describes John's work: With the spirit and power of Elijah he (John) will go before him, (Jesus) to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Gabriel is saying that in order for us to be prepared for the Incarnation our hearts and our actions must be rightly directed. It is that complicated and simple, all this Advent work of preparation: whom do we love, for whom do we care? Ourselves or those to whom we are called to love and serve?
The last thing that strikes me this morning, is the long introductory (run-on) sentence Luke uses as preamble to this Gospel. He says he is providing an orderly account of things handed down from those who were actually eyewitnesses....So many people take these words, these "Gospel-truths", as literally coming from Jesus' mouth, written down contemporaneously with their being spoken. Here, at the beginning of this long and beautiful account of Jesus' life and ministry, we have the author saying "Hey, I've put this in an order that I think appropriate, from the stories past down to us and from my own research."
The "easy way" is to say Hey it's in the Gospel, the Bible says..... The better way is to read these holy texts with an understanding of their origins and build a conversation from that point.
A lot to take in this last week of Advent. All good and precious and loving work though.
Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: An Advent "Wreath", 2011, jfd+