This devotional is part of the 2020 Christmas Devotional Book, “The Gift.” Access the entire devotional and download your free copy by clicking here.
Empty arms … filled (Luke 1:39-45)
When Luke picked up a pen and began to write about the birth of Jesus, he did not begin with Mary . . . or Joseph . . . he began with a man named Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. Their story (not Mary and Joseph’s) kicks off Luke’s Gospel, and it is the conception of their son John (not the immaculate conception of Jesus) that is the first reason to celebrate in this book. This makes sense, because Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son (John the Baptist) would be the one who would “go before Jesus in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just to make ready for the Lord a people prepared (Luke 1:17).” By definition John would come first because he was the forerunner to Jesus.
Even knowing that, it is still striking how much space Luke gives (under the direction of the Holy Spirit) to the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth. You can read the account for yourselves in Luke 1:5-25, 39-45, 57-80. What does God want us to see in this account? Well, here are a couple of thoughts:
- The angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah and promises Zechariah and Elizabeth a child. Zechariah and Elizabeth were “advanced in age” and well past their child conceiving days. Upon hearing this news, Zechariah doubts its veracity. Because of this doubt, Zechariah is struck silent for the duration of the pregnancy. Zechariah’s silence mirrors the 400 years of silence that the nation of Israel had in the days leading up to John the Baptist’s birth. For those 400 years, God did not speak to His people through the prophets. The extra nine months of silence that Zechariah experiences mirror the silence the nation had endured before God as they wandered in the darkness of unbelief. When John is born, however, God begins to speak again to His people . . . and Zechariah is the first of a new order of prophets that would continue to share God’s voice to His people through the writing of the New Testament — all “making ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
- If we see the voice of God returning through Zechariah, we see something else in the account of his wife Elizabeth. Elizabeth was an older woman . . . well past child bearing days, and yet her womb was barren. Over time, her empty arms had become a heavy burden. While all the other moms were getting cards on Mother’s Day and a visible legacy to shape, Elizabeth’s childlessness had become (in her words) a “reproach among people (Luke 1:25).” The birth of John was not just about what the Lord was doing in the world, it was an act of compassion and kindness to Elizabeth. Her womb opened. The promise of God turned into a person . . . a gift.
The ache of Elizabeth’s empty arms were filled with the life that only God can bring. This is a reminder to all who come after that in Christ, God can do “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).”
What are you “aching” about today? Lay your head upon His promises and find your rest in Jesus Christ.
Suggested song for today: “Elizabeth”
In this Christmas devotional, there is a song referenced for each day. All these songs, are included in a playlist found on Apple Music and Spotify at the following links: