Out with the Old in with the New


“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:68-79

The passage of Scripture quotes above from the Gospel of St. Luke is most commonly known as the Song of Zachariah.  As the story goes, while Zachariah was fulfilling his duties as High Priest, the angel came to him while he was in the Holy Place and told him that his wife, Elizabeth, was going to have a son.  Zachariah and Elizabeth had been praying for some time for a child to be born of them and they were now of advanced age so Zachariah sort of mocked the angel.  Because of this the angel took away Zachariah’s ability to speak until his son was born and he was asked what the name of this new child was going to be.

Just as Elizabeth broke into song, so to speak, when she had the first glimpse of the now pregnant Mary, Zachariah breaks out into this prophetic statement about the coming of the Messiah and the role that his child would have in all of this.  This event is a transition point in Scripture and ushers out the old and brings in the new.

We have two stories of an Annunciation, that of the angel appearing to Zachariah, as we have just discussed, and that of the Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary to announce that she would conceive a son and call him Jesus.  I should back up and say that both angels were called Gabriel, the herald.

The Angel comes to Zachariah in the Temple.  He tells him that he is going to be a father and that the child’s name will be John.  As I mentioned, Zachariah kind of scoffs at the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”  I like that he said his wife was “well advanced in years.”  Notice he did not call her old as I am sure he would have had more to deal with than just losing his voice!

When the same angel appears to Mary six months later he says, “Rejoice highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women.”  As with Zachariah, he tells her not to be afraid.  I don’t know about you but if someone suddenly appeared in my room, I think I would be a little scared.  He tells he that, like Elizabeth, she is going to conceive a son but not in the same way.  She asks one question of the angel, “How can this be since I do not know man?”  When the angel tells her how it will happen, she replies, “Let it be to me according to your word.” This is a question of innocence not of mocking, and so the angel tells her what will happen.  He does not strike her mute for asking the question.  So innocent and pure is her faith that she simply says okay if that is what God wants I will do it.  And with that Mary becomes the first disciple of her son.

John the Baptist will become the last of the Old Testament Prophets.  Their job was to prepare the way for the one who would come after them, the one who is so great that John was not worthy to tie his shoes, the shoes of the one who would come.  Jesus would be the final prophet the one who completes the law and all the prophecies before him.  We see Zachariah involved in an elaborate ceremony when the angel comes when the angel visits Mary she is going about her business and with a simple phrase completely changes the worship of God.  “Be it done unto me according to thy will.”

Gone were all of the rituals and sacrifices of the old way and now it was the simple faith of a peasant girl that would show us the new way. “Be it done unto me…”  The simple faith of Mary is the faith that we must have the simple faith of accepting of what God wants of us.  Mary did not sit down and come up with a list of pro’s and con’s before she answered, no he said God had chosen her and wanted her to do something, and she said yes, and that yes changed the world.  Could Mary have said no?  Sure she could have, she had the same free will that all of us have, but she chose the way of God, regardless of the consequences for her life and the life of her family.  She chose this way because God asked her.

Our faith needs to be this simple.  God is asking things of us each day, and we stand at the crossroads of following his will in our lives or following our will in our lives.  Chose the path Mary accepted and followed the will of God in your lives.  It might not be the best road, it might be filled with potholes and other pitfalls, but it is the best road to follow.  And once you are on that road, never look back.

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