Dream of holding close

To understand Lizzy’s joy, we must first encounter her pain. In ancient Jewish culture, children were a tremendous blessing. Psalm 127:3~Lo, (no not the angel from last week) children are a heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. Happy is the man that has his quiver full of them…(KJV). Children allow a family to pass on its name and heritage. They provided more hands to handle the daily tasks of life or to expand a family’s ability to forge a livelihood through their trade or craft. Most importantly, children are viewed as a gift from God and a sign of God’s favor in our lives. Sadly most do not see this today.
To be childless in Israel was a source of great contention and frustration, of sorrow and shame. Even today, Harris Williams and Company cite fertility as a $3-4 billion industry annually, north of $500 million in drug costs alone. This says to me that it is still a source of great struggle and pain for many attempting to grow their family. Understand, marriage creates a family unit, as two become one, and then add children, this was God’s design. Lizzy would have intimately lived in the despair of being childless. She most likely married Zech when she was a young teenager, and the couple likely hope to have children right away. Lizzy probably imagined what it would be like to have a home filled with all the clamor, kerfuffle and tumult of kids who like a business of ferrets in mischief, cackle like a murder of crows, moving the house about like a parade of elephants in a forest, spilling bath water like a bloat of hippopotami, slinking around like a conspiracy of lemurs, this family of otters, would no doubt be the pride of lions swelling this new mom, depending on the day, with so much joy 
Dreaming of holding close that fuzzy heads, taking in that new baby smell. Come on ladies grow the church, April don’t get any ideas hanging out with this riffraff. At first, Lizzy might’ve dismissed the lack of a pregnancy. Maybe the timing of conception was just not right. Perhaps like many of you, she knew the joy of life springing forth within, only to be met with heartache, as she miscarried. We may never really know how physically difficult or emotionally painful, Lizzy’s barrenness was. Friends and family probably offered encouragement, warm sentiment as they shared in her sorrow. Proffering well-intentioned advice, as they added another painful layer of hurt. Entering the confessional she may have thought sin was to blame.

Who knows how long it took, or how many trips she made to the altar, 

but gradually, year after year, Lizzy’s hope would have grown dimmer. She would have to acknowledge the joy of motherhood, may not be for her. No doubt Lizzy like so many women would’ve grieved over the loss of never being a mom. She has to make peace with the loss of social status, inside the culture of her day. She must have wrestled her self-worth into submission as a failure in the eyes of her community. Maybe she even accepted that other ladies may never hold her in high esteem. Though Lizzy carried her emotional burden beneath the surface, she and Zech remained faithful to God. Luke 1:6~ And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. (KJV) This is how they planned to live out the rest of their old age, serving God and His people.



A thorn in the flesh

Our celebration today is Joy, on this the third week of Advent. Thanks for joining our journey toward Christmas. The word Advent means the arrival of a notable person, His name, Jesus, and He is Messiah, our Lord. As a season, Advent is marked by expectation and anticipation. Not just an extension of Christmas, it’s a season of preparation, linking the present to His past arrival and the future Advent of our Lord’s second coming. Participants gather and journey to remember all Christ has done, coming in an any man condition for every man, woman, and child. The opportunity of Advent is to share in the ancient longing for Messiah, celebrating His birth, as it alerts to His soon second coming. During Advent we wait—an active, assured, and hopeful waiting on our Lord. Joy: Long, See, Glorious.

A long night of pain. Luke 1 tells the story of Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. The parents of John the Baptist, who was sent to prepare the way for Jesus. Isaiah 40:3~A voice of one calling: In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (NIV) Now Zechariah was a priest who received an angelic visit saying Don’t be afraid, Zech; your prayer’s been heard. Your wife Lizzy is giving you a son, call him John. He’ll be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great for the Lord Luke 1:13–15~ (ESV).

If you are wondering about the catch-22, Zech and Lizzy are old. She is beyond childbearing and has undergone the change. Move past the shock of talking to an angel and Zech couldn’t get over how, why now, you sure about this? As a result, he will be silenced in his dismay. Admittedly, April and I are not having any more children, and if someone showed up at our door, or some of yours, there might be some questions. Well, Lizzy has an altogether different response. Deep joy is her experience, at the miraculous announcement. 



Peace within

This is why Advent is so important, that Jesus Christ our Lord brings us peace. Angels proclaimed the Prince of Peace is now here to reconcile us back to God. Though we may find pain in the Christmas season, know that God has proclaimed peace to you, to us. The calm acceptance that it is well with my soul no matter what swirls about, or what storm may lay on the coastline of our lives. Today, we celebrate the Prince of Peace, who came as a little babe, grew to be the sacrifice for our sins, and one day real soon, when Jesus soon returns he will heal what is broken, answer what has been requested. God holds complete shalom for us in Jesus Christ. Be made whole in the name of Jesus. God’s Peace: Restored, Whole.

Transforming Peace Calms. How peaceful is your Christmas season? If we’re honest, we might choose words like busy, hectic, and frantic to describe our lives at this time of year or perhaps it’s become an all year long lifestyle. Could be an overloaded schedule that robs us of peace. Or something more: relational conflict, the pressure at work, a lost job, an illness. For many today, peace sounds like a splendid idea, long in its arrival, a nice holiday thought written on a card. A well-wishing at the red kettle with the ringing of the bell. If only we could feel the peace of God.

If this is where you find yourself today, let me encourage you, Jesus always shows up when the storms of life come in like a flood threatening our peace, Isaiah 59:19, though our frantic response might suggest all hope is lost, swept away by the rising tide. Isaiah 43:2, Know that God is with us, for love, Christ came to save us, for the Joy set before Him, Hebrews 12:2 Fix your eyes on the Prince of Peace this Advent season.

Our Takeaway: Jesus himself is our PEACE. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:14~For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility (NIV). We were once sinners, now saved by grace. Peace brought to us, by Jesus. As you pray with me, encounter God’s peaceful presence, this Advent season, allow the Lord to weave His inseparable peace into our hearts, homes, and lives. If you need some Christmas Peace today, find it in the Lord.

“May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.” —2 Thessalonians 3:16