Reflection from Midweek Advent Communion Service—December 5, 2018
Reading: Luke 1:1-25
God works in the barren places—this is a common theme for Advent and a common theme in the Bible.
There’s Abram and Sarai. They are too old to have a child. And yet miraculously they do. Then there’s Hannah and Elkanah.
Hannah too is barren. She can’t give her husband a child. So she prays to the Lord. And she prays so fervently at Shiloh (peace) that the priest Eli thinks she’s drunk.
[He responds…] 1 Samuel 1:14 and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”
[She protests…] 15“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. 16Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”
17Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”
18She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.
Indeed, she will be found to be with child and she will name him Samuel. She will consecrate him to the Lord and he will be a great prophet among the people.
There are other moments of barrenness
- There’s Naomi and Ruth who have lost everything and they move back to Naomi’s home of Bethlehem in search of a new start.
- There’s Joseph enslaved by the Egyptians, thanks to his traitorous brothers.
- There’s Jonah in the big fish.
- There’s Paul and Silas in prison.
- There’s Israel exiled to Babylon.
So the biblical narrative is full of tales of barrenness and various trials and tribulations.
But these episodes are about more than barrenness and hardship. They are about God’s good provision for his people.
So it is with Elizabeth and Zechariah. Barren, like Hannah and like Abram and Sarai, but when God visits this couple he offers them more than a miracle. Not only will they get a child, they will be God’s instruments in heralding God’s salvation. God has brought joy out of mourning, light out of darkness, and hope out of despair. This is who God is. This is the kind of thing God does.
But this is hope for more than the old couple. It’s hope for all of Israel and all the peoples of the earth. It’s hope for you and me because he who is heralded is the Savior of the world. And it’s a sure reminder God is at work in seemingly barren places.
This afternoon… let us take a few minutes to meditate on hope and on God’s provision. As you do, think of your places of barrenness… and lift them in prayer to the Lord. And think of others you know who are struggling with hope… and lift them in prayer to the Lord. Think too of the needs of others… and ask God to bring life.