Sunday December 22, 2019  written by Rachel VanKirk Mathews

Luke 1:57-63 

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed.

In Isaiah, there is a prophetic scripture that describes what God will do through the Messiah. It says, “Do you not see? I am doing a new thing!” It must have felt that way for everyone in this story. Elizabeth and Zechariah have a baby when they thought it was impossible and they give the baby a new name, instead of a name from their family lineage. They both pick the name John for their child without being in the same room and knowing what the other had chosen. All of this is amazing to the people who are with them, one new and strange thing after the other. 

The name John in Hebrew means, “Jehovah (God) is gracious.” So often it feels like the days go by quickly, each day feeling just as overwhelming as the day before. Some days we are weighed down by grief, pain, anxiety, or exhaustion; or maybe, we’re so focused on the tasks each day holds, moving from one thing to the next absorbed by our own life and its demands. However you may be feeling, hopefully, amidst it you have experienced, at least once or twice in your life, a fresh awareness of something new and different. It doesn’t happen often, and sometimes it happens when we least expect it, God’s grace will breathe fresh breath into our lungs. It may be the warmth of sunshine on our faces on a cold day, a co-worker smiling at us or saying something encouraging, something we read that speaks right to the heart of our feelings, or a bite of delicious food that warms our insides. These fleeting experiences of assurance, warmth, and relief may come to us more rarely than we wished they would, but oh how powerful and refreshing to our tired bones they feel. A pure and mysterious reminder that we’re not alone in the world, we’re a part of something bigger and something loving, we’re going to be okay. A feeling that is new and different than the rest of the rushed and anxious world around us. 

These moments of relief are gracious gifts from God. Just as Elizabeth and Zechariah passed the grace they had received to their son and John would pass God’s grace to all people each chance he got, we are meant to share God’s grace. When we experience a moment of relief, assurance, or love, may we take a deep breath and give thanks for the relief from this world’s weightiness that we feel. Then, while we are still full of God’s grace, may we pass it on to someone, anyone else. Together, these little moments of grace, relief, and warmth will build and build into something bigger. A new day, when all can find relief from their suffering and grace when they are low. 


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