People of the Nativity: Mary & Elizabeth - 2 December 2016

Xanthe Hancox

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”  Luke 1:39-45

We’ll be talking more about Mary in the coming weeks, but for now I want to look at her visit to Elizabeth. After Luke tells us how Mary hears from Gabriel how she will give birth to a son, and before he records her song, he shares a special moment in the life of two extraordinary women.

Imagine what Mary may have been thinking as she travelled to Elizabeth’s home. Perhaps she rehearsed their conversation over and over in her head. Would Elizabeth believe her? Would it all sound crazy?

But the very moment she entered the house and gave a customary greeting, Elizabeth blessed Mary as the mother of her Lord. While Luke doesn’t tell us what Mary said, it had an effect so powerful that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Neither Mary nor Elizabeth tries to take center stage and there’s no jealously between them. Elizabeth has insight into Mary's faith: “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (v45) Elizabeth's own husband had doubted what the Lord had told him, and was mute because of it, but Mary had believed. This very trip south to Judea was evidence of her belief, for she was acting it out, coming to visit the one person whom God had prepared to help her – Elizabeth.

Have you had an Elizabeth to help you through a difficult time this year? Perhaps you’ve been one. If you’ve been either, you’ll know how invaluable Christian friendships are. Whether you’re a new Christian with more questions than answers or a long-time follower of Jesus, I encourage you to seek out godly friends and mentors. The wonderful gift of friendship with another is a treasure indeed.

Prayer: Lord, you will always be our closest friend, our best source of counsel, the first place we turn. Thank you also, father, for the wonderful blessing of Christian friends and mentors who help us keep our focus on you. Teach me to be an encouragement to my friends, like Elizabeth was to Mary. Amen

People of the Nativity: Zechariah - 1 December 2016

Xanthe Hancox

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.  Luke 1:5-7

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.  Luke 1:11-13

What a year 2016 has been. Drought! Brexit! State capture! Fees must fall! Trump! The Springboks! (Although I think it’s still too soon to talk about that last one).

Between an ever-shifting political and economic landscape both in South Africa and abroad and new struggles in my own personal life, I think it’s safe to say 2016 was an unsettling year for me. And I don’t think I’m alone. The constant barrage of bad news and the drama that each day seems to bring has left me reeling.

As Christians, it’s important to remind ourselves that nothing that has happened, or will happen, comes as a surprise to God. Christmas is a wonderful time to take a step back and look at the world from an eternal perspective once more.

Over the next couple of week before Verse-a-Day takes a break, we’ll be looking at that first Christmas and the people who were there. First up is Zechariah.

Things weren’t great for him. He and his wife Elizabeth were getting on in years, and were childless. There was a tremendous stigma attached to being without children and he would have felt the shame keenly.

For most of the year, Zechariah and Elizabeth lived in a small village "in the hill country of Judea," (Luke 1:39), except when Zechariah's was on duty in the Temple. He was obscure and insignificant and thought of as something of country bumpkin. Moreover, they lived in dark days during the tyrannical reign of Herod the Great (37 to 4 BC).

 Zechariah could have easily stopped praying, became bitter, and stopped working for the God who was not providing a child for him. But this is not how Zechariah’s story ends. We know that God answered his prayers and proved himself faithful by blessing him with a son, John the Baptist, who would announce the coming of Jesus.

Prayer: Father, forgive me for my doubt and despair. Thank you for the story of your faithfulness to Zechariah. May we be reminded of it at moments in our lives when we are tempted to give up. Amen

 

Mense betrokke by die geboorte van Jesus: Maria en Elisabet - 2 Desember 2016

Xanthe Hancox

Maria het haar sonder versuim gereed gemaak en haastig na 'n dorp in die bergstreek van Judea gegaan. Daar het sy in Sagaria se huis ingegaan en vir Elisabet gegroet. Net toe Elisabet die groet van Maria hoor, het die kindjie in Elisabet se moederskoot beweeg, en sy is met die Heilige Gees vervul en het hard uitgeroep: “Geseënd is jy onder die vroue en geseënd is die vrug van jou moederskoot! Waaraan het ek dit te danke dat die moeder van my Here na my toe kom? Kyk, net toe die geluid van jou groet in my ore klink, het die kindjie in my van vreugde beweeg. Gelukkig is sy wat glo dat in vervulling sal gaan wat die Here vir haar gesê het!”  Lukas 1:39-45

Ons gaan in die komende weke meer oor Maria gesels, maar vandag wil ek net aandag gee aan haar besoek aan Elisabet. Nadat Lukas vir ons vertel van die engel Gabriël se besoek aan Maria, en voordat hy haar loflied met ons deel, deel hy 'n baie spesiale oomblik in die lewe van twee buitengewone vroue met ons.

Stel jou voor wat Maria moes gedink het op pad na Elisabet se huis. Miskien het sy dit wat sy wou vertel oor en oor in haar gedagtes herhaal. Sou Elisabet haar glo? Klink dit alles baie vergesog?

Maar op die oomblik dat sy die huis binnegaan en Elisabet groet, erken Elisabet haar as die moeder van haar Here. Lukas vertel nie vir ons wat Maria gesê het nie, maar die effek was so kragtig dat Elisabet met die Heilige Gees vervul is.

Nie Maria of Elisabet probeer om die middelpunt van belangrikheid te wees nie en is nie jaloers op mekaar nie. Elisabet het onmiddellik insig in Maria se se geloof: "Gelukkig is sy wat glo dat in vervulling sal gaan wat die Here vir haar gesê het!” (v45). Elisabet se eie man het die boodskap wat die Here vir hom gestuur het, betwyfel en daarom was hy stom, maar Maria het geglo. Hierdie besoek aan 'n dorpie in die bergstreek van Judea is 'n bewys daarvan, sy kom besoek die een persoon wat God voorberei het om haar te help – Elisabet.

Het jy vanjaar 'n "Elisabet" gehad om jou deur moeilike tye te help? Miskien was jy een. Indien jy beide was, sal jy weet hoe kosbaar vriendskap tussen Christene is. Of jy nou 'n jong Christen met meer vrae as antwoorde is, of iemand wat reeds vir baie jare 'n volgeling van Jesus is, wil ek jou aanmoedig om jou godvresende vriende en mentors op te soek. Die gawe van vriendskap is waarlik 'n skat wat ons moet koester.

Gebed: Here, U is vir altyd ons beste Vriend, ons Bron van berading, die eerste Persoon na wie ons gaan om hulp te vra. Dankie Vader vir die wonderlike gawe van Christen vriende en mentors wat ons help om op U te fokus. Leer my hoe om, soos Elisabet vir Maria gehelp het, ook 'n bemoediging vir my vriende te wees. Amen

Mense betrokke by die geboorte van Jesus: Sagaria - 1 Desember 2016

Xanthe Hancox

In die tyd van koning Herodes van Judea was daar 'n priester met die naam Sagaria, uit die diensgroep van Abia. Ook sy vrou het van Aäron afgestam, en haar naam was Elisabet. Hulle was albei getrou aan die wet van God en het onberispelik al die gebooie en voorskrifte van die Here onderhou. Hulle het geen kind gehad nie, omdat Elisabet onvrugbaar was. Buitendien was albei reeds op ver gevorderde leeftyd.  Lukas 1:5-7.

Toe verskyn daar aan die regterkant van die wierookaltaar 'n engel van die Here aan hom. Sagaria het geskrik toe hy hom daar sien staan en hy het baie bang geword, maar die engel sê vir hom: “Moenie bang wees nie, Sagaria, want jou gebed is verhoor. Jou vrou, Elisabet, sal aan jou 'n seun skenk, en jy moet hom Johannes noem.  Lukas 1:11-13

Wat 'n jaar was 2016 nie. Droogte! Brexit! Staatskaping! "Fees must fall!" Trump! Die Springbokke! (Alhoewel ek dink dit is nog te gou om oor laasgenoemde te praat).

Tussen die veranderende politiese en ekonomiese landskap, beide in Suid-Afrika en in ander lande, asook worstelinge in my persoonlike lewe, dink ek dit is veilig om te sê dat 2016 was 'n ontwrigtende jaar vir my. En ek dink nie ek is alleen nie. Die voortdurende slegte nuus en die drama's van elke dag het my behoorlik laat steier.

As Christene moet ons egter onsself daaraan herinner dat niks wat gebeur het of nog gaan gebeur vir God 'n verrassing is nie. Die Kerstyd is 'n wonderlike geleentheid om 'n bietjie terug te staan en weer 'n keer vanuit ewigheidsperspektief na die wêreld te kyk.

Die volgende paar weke totdat Vers-'n-Dag vir die jaar sluit, gaan ons 'n bietjie stilstaan by daardie eerste Kersfees en die mense wat betrokke was. Sagaria is die eerste persoon by wie ons stilstaan.

Dinge was nie so rooskleurig vir hom nie. Hy en sy vrou, Elisabet, was kinderloos en reeds bejaard. 'n Stigma het aan kinderloosheid gekleef en hy sou dit as 'n skande ervaar het.

Vir die grootste deel van die jaar, behalwe wanneer Sagaria diens in die tempel moes doen, het Sagaria en Elisabet in 'n klein dorpie in die bergstreek van Judea gewoon.(Lukas 1:39). Hy was redelik obskuur en onbelangrik, ietwat van 'n plaasjapie. En dan het hulle boonop geleef in die tyd wat die tiran, Herodus die Grote, (37 tot 4 v.C.) geregeer het.

Sagaria kon maklik opgehou het om te bid, hy kon bitter geword het, en opgehou het om te werk vir die God wat nie kind aan hom geskenk het nie. Maar dit is nie hoe die verhaal van Sagaria eindig nie. Om deur 'n seun aan hom te skenk. Hierdie seun, Johannes die Doper, het die koms van Jesus aangekondig.

Gebed: Vader, vergewe my dat ek soms twyfel en moed verloor. Dankie dat die storie van Sagaria u getrouheid ook aan my bewys. Help ons om die verhaal van Sagaria te onthou wanneer ons in die versoeking kom om moed op te gee. Amen

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