An Unexpected Christmas

Devotional

Day 1: The Forgotten 





The story starts with a couple, but it’s not the couple you might think. There is an often forgotten couple that played a key role in the unveiling of the Christmas story. Their names were Zechariah and Elizabeth. They were the type of couple that did all the right things… they honored God and kept his laws. At this point in their lives, they had been married many years and were quite old, but they had no children. 





In the Jewish culture, children were a sign of God’s blessing. Children ensured that beliefs were passed on to future generations. Zechariah and Elizabeth had undoubtedly attended celebrations where they had watched their friends experience the joy of seeing their children learn stories of God’s faithfulness to their ancestors. But this couple had no children of their own to pass down their faith to.





The backdrop of the first Christmas story begins with Zechariah at work in his job as a priest.




Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.  And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” (Luke 1:8–15; 18)




Over the many years of longing for a child, Zechariah would likely have wondered if his prayers were heard. Did God not see him? Did God not hear his heartfelt, desperate requests? For years, in the midst of a continual unanswered prayer, he served God and waited. When he was an old man, he learned that his prayer had been answered, but it seemed impossible to believe. Little did he know that his long-awaited son, John, would be a cousin to Jesus and would one day prepare the way for Jesus’s ministry.





We’ve all experienced seasons when we felt forgotten or passed over in some way. Perhaps you’ve felt this way this past year. Chances are good that you know someone who has. 





When we feel overlooked or when we are grieving, what can help the most is being seen—really seen—by someone else. The word “empathy” is defined as identifying with the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another. In practical terms, empathy can be sending a text that says, “I know this may be a tough season for you. I’m praying for you.” It’s displayed when we put aside the priorities or busyness of our world to connect with someone in need. 





As you approach this Christmas season, consider who in your life may feel forgotten. How can you show them that you see them and are here for them this season? If you currently feel forgotten, consider Zechariah and the fact that he is a part of one of the greatest stories ever to unfold. Is there something God may want to show you during this season?