One son shares a similar reaction when something goes wrong. We say, ‘that’s ruined!’ Even when it’s not. Just like to hear ourselves say it. Yet, way down deep, we mean it. What we’d hoped for, longed for, planned for that doesn’t quite live up to our expectations. That’s ruined!
A lesser known character in the Christmas story is Zechariah, found in Luke’s Gospel. He’s an older man, whatever that means in a time when being in your 30’s was solidly middle-aged.
Zechariah serves as a priest in Jerusalem’s Temple. Not like a church staff of three or four, there were thousands of priests assisting in this holy place. King David is the master organizer. He institutes twenty-four priestly orders. Each one would be on duty a week at a time for a total of two weeks each year. That’s far less time than some think pastors work–one day a week and only for an hour on Sunday, if that!
Priests were, of necessity, bi-vocational. Tended sheep, raised crops, earned their family living through the trades except for those two weeks a year. Now here’s another chore that’s remarkable–the burning of Temple incense, symbolizing prayers to God along with masking nasty aromas of animal sacrifice and milling throngs of unwashed folk. This incense burning only happens once in the lifetime of a priest. Once. And only once. That’s it.
Finally, it’s Zechariah’s turn to do just that, burn incense (Luke 1:9). Can you imagine his excitement? All his godly calling looks to this very moment. Finally, it’s here. The day has arrived. And now what?
An angel appears to Zechariah inside the Temple precincts. He can’t believe what he sees and hears, leading the angel to silence him. Which means no speaking for the foreseeable future. Like a pastor with severe laryngitis, even though looked upon as a blessing by the congregation!
A measly fourteen days a year of God’s work. Once in a lifetime for incense offering. Now Zechariah’s disqualified. Muted. Kaput. Hushed. Down the drain. The angel zips his lips. Loud priestly prayers gagged and muzzled. That’s ruined!
Ever feel that way? God’s poor timing? You had it all figured out and God messes with it. God forbid God’s will prevails when I have it all planned out so much better. Neat and tidy. Really? Sounds like bald-faced pride, which usually comes before a big Humpty-Dumpty fall, doesn’t it.
Better to be quiet and silenced. Derailed yet now moving on God’s track. Recognizing who knows best, waiting for Father’s plans to emerge. Get behind Him…and follow. Good idea? I think so.
By the way, our daughter-in-law Erin points out that the only priest mentioned by name in Luke’s Christmas story is good old Zechariah! Top billing. First in his class. Blue ribbon winner.
Hey, nothing’s ruined after all. Especially in the Lord’s hands.
Lord, to follow you is always best. In Jesus’ name. Amen.