Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

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Written by Peter Langbroek
He had nine months to think in silence. He could open his mouth but no words would come out. Now, a tablet was before him. He was about to write.

Many times Zacharias thought about that extraordinary moment. He was, as a priest, chosen by lot to place incense in the holy place of the temple. How he rejoiced to perform, every time, this holy task of sacrifice for a whole week!

He remembered well. A crowd of people stood around the brazen altar praying as he went with a censor, carrying glowing coals from the altar. He entered the holy place, its room filled with a golden hue of light from the golden candlestick. He put the coals on the altar of incense. Then he sprinkled the fine powder of incense on the coals. The sweet fragrance of incense wafted through the room.

Next, Zacharias fell down flat on the ground. He prayed. He prayed what he was taught to pray: that God might enter the temple and show mercy because of the sacrifice. He had prayed sincerely from his heart. Zacharias was waiting for the Messiah to come and comfort Israel and save Jerusalem. He never expected what happened next!

Now he sat with a tablet before him. His baby son was in the room. His wife Elisabeth and some friends were with him, celebrating the circumcision of his son. Many times Zacharias wished he had believed. It is true, God does answer prayer! He knew that many years ago God had given Sarah and Abraham a son in a miraculous way. But he, Zacharias, had not believed the angel Gabriel. While he spoke the prayer for mercy, he looked up to see, to his shock, the angel Gabriel standing next to him in the holy place.

He, a father?! Elizabeth, a mother?! They were too old! But God answers prayer. The boy would be born--a boy who would be a prophet, who would announce the coming of the Messiah. And now this son was in the room with him. He needed a name.

Zacharias wrote, "His name shall be..." Gabriel told him who the son would be. He would be the one of whom Malachi prophesied 400 years ago. He would go in the spirit and power of Elijah. He would be empowered by the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb.

Why didn't he believe? God can do all things! He answers prayer!

Zacharias remembered how helpless he was when he walked out to meet the crowd of praying people outside. They had waited for his blessing--but he couldn't say a word! They were shocked.

Months of silence had passed by. Zechariah finished writing: "His name shall be John."

What happened next was unforgettable: "And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, and praised God" (Luke 1: 64). Right in front of his shocked friends, he was prophesying! The words flowed out joyfully as he spoke of his son who would prepare the way for the Messiah (Christ), the Saviour (Jesus)! He began to speak: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed His people. And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of DavidÉ" (Read Luke I: 67-80).

God truly answers prayer.

A Personal Note: The Christmas season is often seen as a time of fellowship and cheerfulness. These are blessings we may enjoy. Yet, we must remember that Christmas is a time of prayer and praise to God. The story of Zacharias teaches us this so well. Before the first Christmas, Zacharias and the people around the altar in the temple prayed. God answered their prayers. After Christmas (the birth of Christ) we must also pray, remembering Jesus' birth, ministry, crucifixion, death, resurrection and ascension. We too, must pray the prayer of all the saints with hope: "Even so, come Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22: 20).

I wish you all a Christmas season of prayer and praise.

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