Yesterday and Today by 25haDw


Allison UMC
Mira Hewlett
December 24, 2006
Luke 1:76-79

                                  Preparing the Path: Yesterday and Today…

N: Narrator, E: Elizabeth, Z: Zachariah

N: Each Christmas season we prepare to celebrate the birthday of Christ, a babe who came in a manger and
changed the face of the world. However Jesus’ birth was not the only birth in scripture at this time. John, the
son of Elizabeth and Zachariah was born six months before Jesus and played a huge role in his ministry.
        The holiday season is about celebrating traditions, telling stories, and seeing God in new ways through
our friends, family, and community of faith. Let us journey together today to see this story anew from

E: I can’t believe it, I have a son! It has been a crazy few months; me being pregnant, who would have thought?
I am way past child bearing years, and Zachariah, I do love him, but he is definitely past his years if you know
what I mean.
        I’ve lived a righteous life, doing everything according to the commandments and laws of the Lord. My
husband is a priest, of course everyone always watches us…it’s a bit annoying you know when people think we
are supposed to be perfect. However we weren’t perfect, I remained childless, and the older and older I got, the
more I worried I would not be able to have a child. The community looked down on me, and we were
heartbroken. Then, one day Zachariah came home from serving in the temple, and his face was ashen.
Something had happened, and I wasn’t sure what it was….

Z: I am a man of God, a priest. Of all people you’d except I would be eager to believe the message of an angel
and quick to obey. But I wasn’t and now I’m struck mute. Why is God doing this? Why shouldn’t I be able to
tell others about what happened to me? Besides, it’s not a story they’d likely believe. God telling an old man
he’s going to father a child to a woman well past her childbearing years. Who’d believe that? I heard the
message firsthand and I still have difficulty believing it. I even told Gabriel it was impossible. That’s why I
was struck mute. Shaken by what happened I ran from the temple to tell Elizabeth, but since I couldn’t talk, all
I did was scare her.

N: Yes, Zachariah did scare Elizabeth. It took hours for them to communicate what Zachariah had seen through
signs, pictures, and motions. Zachariah’s response was unbelief and amazement. Contrasted to his response,
Elizabeth’s faith, like Mary’s carried her from unbelief to excitement of this long aspired dream.

E: “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have
endured among my people.” (Luke 1:25) Yes Oh Lord, make it true. Thank you, dear Lord, for this honor to
have a child. No longer will I be seen as a disgrace to my husband, my church, and my family. I will have a
child and he will be yours. Whatever you want, just tell me, guide me, direct me to be the parent you want for
this child.

N: Being pregnant, with a mute husband, Elizabeth goes into seclusion for five months. Her young cousin
Mary comes to announce that she too is pregnant, also by the Holy Spirit. An old woman and a young virgin
are pregnant at the same time in ways that lead the people around them to think they are crazy. But these births
aren’t about biology, they are about theology. They are about God and what God is doing. Elizabeth and Mary
got that. Joseph and Zachariah had a bit harder time understanding God’s plan and hand in these pregnancies.
        Time passed and Elizabeth gave birth to a son.
E: When I gave birth, it was obvious, even to my doubtful neighbors, that this pregnancy wasn’t my own
doing. Now Mary has a harder issue with her family, but my family can’t say it was my fault I was pregnant.
They know I have tried for years and am way too old. The Lord has shown me great mercy through this child.
Everyone who sees him knows it is the work of God and not myself. Eight days after he was born, obeying the
Jewish laws, we took our child to be circumcised. This is when I would have to announce his name since
Zachariah still could not speak. Everyone was expecting that I would name him Zachariah. But his name was to
be John, according to what Gabriel told me.

Z: I was so excited: a son. I had a son! Traditionally he should have bore my name, but being mute for nine
months taught me to listen to God in new ways. Like most, I[m more accustomed to talking to God rather than
listening. Though skeptical it was God speaking, I nonetheless intuited that my son’s name was to be John,
because God has been gracious to us. (1 Chr 26:3) When John was finally born, family and friends began to
protest to Elizabeth about naming the child anything but Zachariah. So I motioned for a piece of slate and
wrote upon it, “his name is to be John.” Suddenly I sensed I was able to speak. For the first time in nine months
sound came from my mouth. Praise God!

N: Now the people of their community were scared. A person who was mute for nine months was able to speak.
And his wife, who was way past child bearing years, has a child. They knew that God had been present in
creating this birth. It was obvious God was down here, working in their midst, and things were just beginning
to get interesting with John’s birth….the question of what would become of this child resonated throughout the
community. Was this child the Messiah, the long awaited for Christ? Why not announce things through older
prophets, why a child? Conceived by the Holy Spirit with a doubtful priest of a father and elderly mother, what
will this child become?

E: I must admit I am scared of the future, of parenting this child who is so special. I am thankful that the Holy
Spirit does not give up, that an unborn child, an elderly woman, and a doubting man all are worthy of the Holy
Spirit. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that has brought us this far, and the Holy Spirit will guide us. God has
been faithful. Not how I expected, but still we are blessed by this little child, this wonderment of God. Who
were we to have this child, who will he be?

Z: He will be the forerunner for the Messiah who is coming. God has looked with favor upon us and will
redeem us. God is fulfilling the holy covenant He swore to Abraham, and kept alive through the ages. John will
prepare the way for the Christ, preaching the salvation the Messiah will bring. He will remind us God forgives
our sins, and darkness will be no more. As God incarnate the Messiah will bring great light into the world and
will guide us towards peace. John will instruct us to look to the light of Christ and follow it.

N: Okay hold it you two. I know I have been away at school, and you two have been up to some changes, what
about this birth? Why do we care about John when it is almost Christmas, which is about Jesus’ birth? Didn’t
you both go to seminary? Who cares about Elizabeth, Zachariah, and baby John, what can they teach us today
that will guide our Christmas faith?

Z: Yes, Anna, I graduated from seminary even before you were born, which is why I am feeling like Zachariah:
an old man. And you’re right: this holy season is about the celebration of Christ’s birth. But in telling the story
we frequently ignore Zachariah, Joseph and John. To be candid, I relate more to Zachariah’s doubt and
Joseph’s fear than I do to having an angelic encounter.

E: I love Mary and Elizabeth, and really am envious of their faith, of their upbeat attitude, and their ability to
say yes God we hear you and we are on board. I don’t know about you, but I have trouble doing that. Sure I can
be excited about ministry, meeting new people, seeing and sharing God’s love in a community of faith, but
jumping in like Mary and Elizabeth, I am glad God picked them and not me.
N: Okay, so it’s hard to believe that God would make this all happen. Hearing God isn’t always easy. So lead
pastor, what does that look like for us today to hear God, does Gabriel show up in your office once a week and
give you updates on the direction for Allison?

Z: (laughing…) I wish it were that simple. I could save myself a lot of frustration and criticism. The reality is,
with the exception of an angelic appearance it’s not always easy to discern God’s lead. That’s why we’re called
to walk by faith and not sight. If anything, the story of Zachariah teaches us that there are times God thinks in
ways that are unthinkable to us and acts in totally unexpected ways—ways we even tend to resist. After all,
that’s why Zachariah was struck mute. Who’d expect an old man and woman to give birth? At Allison we’re
learning together how to walk by faith, realizing we won’t always have all the answers before setting out on the
journey. As you’re aware, it’s not always each or comfortable. But then I imagine Zachariah and Elizabeth
giving birth to John in their old age had its difficulties.

E: You are right; it is not easy listening to God’s call when our world, society, and jobs teach us to look
everywhere but to God. Hearing God comes through prayer, through discernment and through holy
conversations. We set our agendas aside to listen for God’s. For me discerning God’s voice in community is
important because I believe God speaks to all of us and wants to us work together as we vision where God is
leading Allison. I have heard God’s voice here at Allison, through youth excited to preach this evening,
through adults so excited about PLACE ministry they are changing schedules to make it happen, through letters
and emails of encouragement when voices of the world seem to be a lot louder.

N: So we hear God through prayer and discernment, through new sermons and bible studies. But how do we
know it is God and not just the pastors who are speaking? And how do we know all these changes are God
inspired and not people inspired?

E: Anna that is my biggest fear, prayer, and concern since I started ministry. When ministry is God-centered,
we work together to uplift-- not ourselves and take the credit - but to be like John and point towards what the
Messiah is doing and who the Messiah is. Although I wish I had blueprints of the coming years of ministry and
life, I am still waiting to find them. Ministry and my life is about trusting God one step at a time, believing that
God will be faithful and not provide more than I can handle at a time. I, and we as Allison, are called to be
faithful and say “here am I Lord, your servant,” use me to do as you will. Don’t make me shine, but allow your
light to shine to others through me.

Z: God inspired ministry is about listening, praying and trusting God. It’s more about being faithful to Jesus as
Lord than trying to make everyone happy. During my ministry I’ve learned that telling God my plans only
makes God laugh. So I’ve learned to listen to God more than speak to God. I spend more time practicing
silence during prayer than talking, and reflecting on scripture rather than simply reading. I also regularly engage
in Christian conversation as a way of discerning where God is leading, mindful that God is full of surprises. I
pray as disciples at Allison we are always open to Christian conversation discerning together where God is
leading. It is not easy, that’s for sure. The bottom line is, it’s all about Christ, not about me or John or anyone
else. Our call is to discern and follow and point to Christ, not chart the course.

 N: So hearing God and trusting in God with change is important. We must remember our past but also move
forward. We can live in fear and disbelief, but then like Zachariah, God will use our disbelief in a way to insure
we are focusing upon God and not upon ourselves or our own faith. We hear God, like Elizabeth did, we trust
God like Zachariah learned in naming John, and then what…how do we learn from John’s birth for today?

Z: We learn that we must follow God and go where God directs. John was sent to prepare the way for Jesus,
and that is the job of the Church today. We are called to be John-like as we prayer the way for Jesus’ second
coming. After all, that’s the theme of Advent: preparing the way for the Messiah. Until that day comes we’re
to busy ourselves proclaiming Jesus’ ability to forgive sins, save the lost, heal the distressed and broken
hearted, and letting the light of Christ shine through the darkness.

E: We are called to be like John and point to the Christ-child as we follow God. It’s not about us, it’s not about
God just becoming a baby for the heck of it, but it’s about us following God because we cannot point to anyone
more perfect, more faithful, and responsible for our salvation than Christ. What I love about this birth story is
Zachariah and Elizabeth had it right. Being Jewish parents, they were supposed to think that their child could be
the Messiah, but they did not. They knew that he was a pointer towards the Messiah. This too is our job to
follow God and point Christ out to others. I have seen Allison point towards Christ in persons taking leaps of
faith trusting new pastors even if they were unsure who exactly we your new pastors are, in many serving at
Project SHARE, My Brother’s Table, Samaritan Fellowship, and Kenya in ways that it’s all about God and not
about their hours or abilities. The focus must be on loving and caring for others because we are following
God’s call.

N: So where does this leave us? What does Christmas have to teach Allison?

Z: Christmas teaches us, and all churches, to be attune to the voice of God, expecting God to do the unexpected,
and learning to walk by faith and not by sight. Simply preserving the status quo didn’t work in biblical times,
and it certainly won’t work today in our culture where change is ever increasing. Our call is to listen, trust, and

E: We have faith and the promise of peace that Christ brings to those who receive him. Elizabeth and Zachariah
knew their child would help proclaim the story of the light that penetrates all darkness and guides us into the
way of peace. With the enthusiasm of Elizabeth we must say Christ you are our peace and we receive you, we
are preparing your way to come again, and we celebrate where you are leading us. Guide our feet, our lives,
and our church into the way of peace where you see fit.

N: In the name of God the Father,
Z: In the name of Jesus the Son,
E: And in the name of the Holy Spirit
All: Amen

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