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Advent – Learning to Prep for the Promise – Part 2

5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah (The Lord Remembers), who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah (God is my father). His wife was descended from the daughters of Aaron (Exalted), and her name was Elizabeth (My God is an oath). 6 Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. 7 But they had no children because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years

– Luke 1:-5-7

Why does Luke start Zechariah (Z) and Elizabeth (E)?

I believe Luke starts here for you and me to learn from Z and E. He teaches us through Z and E to Holy Appreciate and Prep so that we may steward His Promises when they come into our hearts and hands.  

If I were to title this advent devotion, it would be “Dear Sister Elizabeth and Brother Zechariah, forgive me for not listening and learning from your story in how to Holy Prep!” or the less academic version, “Brother Z and Sister E…sorry for missing and dissin’ you.”

In my last post, I mentioned that I had asked God’s Word to take hold of me in a new way, and I soon realized how I often jump too fast past the parents of John the Baptist to get to the star of the show, Jesus.

Essau McCaulley states in his book Reading While Black, “You see, Luke is the only writer of the New Testament texts who is probably Gentile. He was most likely a convert from among the Godfearers who came to faith through the evangelistic witness of the apostles. In the wider culture, his status as a Gentile may have afforded him certain privileges that might have been denied to the Jewish people of his day. Nonetheless, his status as a Gentile within the early Christian circles was a matter of some controversy. In the second volume of his work, Luke tells the story of how the church came to understand that both Jewish and Gentile believers were equal members of the people of God. 

Luke’s voice is an essential voice for all ethnic groups and those considered to be marginalized. His gospel becomes a primer for the argument that God intended from the beginning to have a glorious, beautiful church that was international, multi-ethnic, and a representation of Him and His community.

I love what McCaulley goes on to state, “One might be tempted to say that the place of all ethnicities in the kingdom of God is a bright red line running right down the middle of the New Testament.”

Now, here is something we often neglect when we read the story of Brother Z and Sister E: our biases place them in a religious and cultural box that we can’t understand or relate to—the descendants of a priestly order of two elderly Jewish citizens.  

But as we learn to see their context empathetically, we see that their lives revolved around the festivals, religious practices, teaching, investigating issues of purity, and intercession for the people (Lev 10:10-11). And underneath this daily living, they had to make theological sense of being a people oppressed under the oppression of the Roman Empire.  

They are trying to live out their faith in what seems to be a hopeless cultural and political setting, yet they are courageously keeping on and keeping up. They, like us, would have been trying to navigate what seems to be God’s long silence in the fulfillment of promises when all the world seems on fire, complicated, strained, and polarized. They lived in the season of a long wait but did their best to keep prepping.

And Luke places them here to remind us that they lived in a system and culture that did not admire their voice or contribution.

It is hard not to imagine that Z and E would not have eyes and ears to the needs of the people around them – poverty, oppression, faith struggle, political polarization, and the isms that many of us experience or are confronted with today. 

Howard Thurman shares the relationship between Christianity and the oppressed and notices the following:

I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times that I have heard a sermon on the meaning of religion, of Christianity, to the man (person) who stands with () his back against the wall. It is urgent that my meaning be made crystal clear. The masses of (people) men live with their backs constantly against the wall. They are the poor, the disinherited, the dispossessed. What does our religion say to them?

– Howard Thurman

Luke gives us two characters who are awake to the needs of their oppression and the oppressed. And could we not, for an imaginative moment, say we might be just like them? And ask us the same question: “What does our religion say to the world we live in?”

We can start in the same place Luke does by showing us two people trying to live out their faith in an unstable time. And we can ask ourselves, is that not true for us? 

And all this in their culture, we know, is just part of the burden Z and E are shouldering. Yes, they live in a time where they are oppressed from the outside, navigating their faith in a time when God is silent; Luke tells us they also are feeling the pressure on the inside – up close and personal in the intimacy of their relationship and home. 

Let’s make no mistake about how Luke opens the story and says before God breaks His silence and shows off His Promises, amid the world we live in, God also sees the personal burdens we might be carrying. 

In our next blog, let’s examine what more Z and E can teach us. 

(See ‘Advent – Learning to Prep for the Promise – Part 3’ )

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