Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
December 14, 2014
What Elizabeth and her husband learned
Christmas is a mixed bag. Santa Claus is one of the main players. And who does not love old Santa. But Santa is not enough. The full meaning of Christmas escapes us unless we take a look at what the Bible says.
The Bible’s key players are Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. But there are others from whom we may learn valuable lessons. I love the story of the old priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. They learned something very important about God.
Being an old priest myself I can identify with Zechariah. If the angel Gabriel had suddenly appeared to me I would have fainted. And I would have replied to the angel, “You have got to be kidding! My wife, as old as she is, will soon give birth to a boy? Yeah, sure!” And like Zechariah, my doubt would have rendered me speechless too.
Luke in his gospel explains Elizabeth’s pregnancy as God doing the impossible. Elizabeth was too old to have a child – but she did! Gabriel had given this news to Mary at the time he told her that she would give birth to a son who would be called the Son of God.
Mary was a young girl in her teens. Elizabeth was an old woman. But they were both chosen by God to give birth to sons who would demonstrate God’s amazing love for the world. Elizabeth’s son John would prepare the way for the Messiah, inviting the world to “behold the Lamb of God.”
Mary wanted to share her joy with someone who would understand her incredible story. What a scene it was when Mary entered Elizabeth’s home. The baby John leaped within Elizabeth’s womb, filled with joy at the sound of Mary’s greeting. Somehow the unborn John realized he was in the presence of the Messiah, the Lord for whom he would prepare the way.
Prominent in Luke’s account is the role of the Holy Spirit. Not only was Mary’s pregnancy the work of the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth’s recognition of Mary as the mother of the Messiah was also the work of the Spirit. She comprehended the truth because, at the sound of Mary’s voice, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Here is the lesson learned by Zechariah and Elizabeth – that God meets us in ordinary places. He is not shut up in churches and temples waiting there to bless us. While the Holy Spirit may come upon us in church, he is more likely to fill us and bless us in our homes and our work places. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit in a humble Judean home in the hill country. This teaches us that we can receive the Spirit in the ordinary places of our lives, especially in our homes.
Once I prayed earnestly for a man in my community to come to the Lord. I prayed that he would come to the altar at the end of one of my marvelous sermons so the whole church could witness his conversion. God had a different plan.
One Thursday the man came by my home to share his great joy in having been born again. I asked where and when this had taken place. He said, “In the barn, right after milking the cows; the Holy Spirit came over me and I fell to my knees, confessed my sins and accepted Jesus as my Savior.” I could tell he was a different man, changed by the power of God.
I shared his joy but I learned something important that day. God does not sit around all week waiting for Sunday so he can meet us in church. He is ready to do business with us anywhere and anytime we become willing to surrender!
On his deathbed John Wesley reminded those attending him that the best news of all is this – “God is with us.” And He is. His very Name, Immanuel, says it all: God with us! We can expect to meet Him in the most ordinary of places.
Anywhere we are willing we can embrace the power and presence of his Holy Spirit. When we are lonely, depressed, sad, hurting or bewildered, he is likely to come upon us when we least expect it. And when the Spirit fills us, as he did Zechariah and Elizabeth, we too will be overwhelmed with joy! + + +