Advent Week 2: Surprise

When is the last time you were surprised? I mean completely thrown off, didn’t see it coming, couldn’t believe your eyes, left standing mouth agape surprised?

I do not consider myself easily surprised. I am a planner and detail oriented; however, Aaron, my husband, has managed to surprise me several times over the years. One time that stands out to me happened a few weeks before we got married. We had been living in two different states for the last semester of college while Aaron completed an internship, and I finished my classes. We had been counting the days until he would be home, and our countdown ticked down to five as I drove home to my parents’ house for a bridal shower. I talked to Aaron on the phone as I made the two hour drive north; we discussed the end of his internship and our upcoming wedding.  Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until I walked into my parents’ house. My mom was hiding something. I could tell as soon as I walked in the door. Surprised is an understatement for how I felt when Aaron came around the corner. Shocked, flabbergasted, elated. I remember not having words for a brief moment as I processed the scene. Aaron was home five days early and had driven straight to my parents’ house so he could see me as soon as possible. I never suspected a thing. My assumption that he was still in Colorado made it rather easy for him and my parents to keep me in the dark. I was not even looking for the signs.

How do you respond when you are surprised like that? In our passage for today Zechariah experiences a surprise like no other.

READ: Take a few minutes and read Luke 1:5-25.

The Jewish people had been waiting for the promised Messiah for centuries by the time Zechariah found himself serving in the temple. And as a priest Zechariah would have been familiar with the words of the prophets which foretold the Messiah’s coming. However, he was unprepared for God to break into his reality when he entered the sanctuary that day. Zechariah was face to face with a messenger from God quoting Scripture to him, telling him how the period of waiting was ending and God was on the move, and yet he struggled to believe.

Perhaps over the years Zechariah and others like him moved from expectant, hope-filled waiting to just waiting. This kind of waiting leads to complacency, passivity, and skepticism. We see this with Zechariah. A priest, who should have known the signs and who should have recognized God at work, was overwhelmed with shock, fear and unbelief.

If we are truly honest with ourselves, too many days we are not that different than Zechariah. We trudge along lulled into complacency by the mundaneness of life not expecting God to show up and break into our reality. But the truth is God is not far off, and he is not uninvolved in our daily lives. And even though we find ourselves waiting in the time in between Christ’s first coming and his second, the beauty of the incarnation is that God is with us, always, even while we wait. So the question, then, is are we aware of God’s work in our midst? And further, are we attuned to the voice of the Holy Spirit?

PONDER & DISCUSS:

  • Do you ever feel like Zechariah, caught completely off guard when God shows up?
  • What can make it difficult to recognize where God is at work, especially in seasons of waiting?
  • How do you go about noticing where God is at work in your life?
  • What practices do you find helpful? How has God been at work in your life recently?

PRACTICE: We are in the second week of advent. Our schedules are full to overflowing, and Christmas preparations are in full swing. However, as we go through this season, let’s not allow our busyness to get in the way of expectantly waiting the arrival of our Savior or cause us to miss where God is at work altogether. And the most effective way to recognize God’s work is to spend time communing with him, learning the sound of his voice and the patterns of his work in our midst. Thus, our practice this week is a prayer practice.

Two or three evenings this week set aside time to enter into a time of prayerful reflection on your day(s). Begin by praying the words of Psalm 139:23-24.      

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

Follow this by rewinding and replaying the tape of your day in your head. See every person you encountered, every place you went, and every situation you endured. Throughout this reflection let God guide your thoughts. Ask God to show you where he was at work, and invite him to convict you where you missed the mark and celebrate with you where you followed him well. And above all, let this time tarrying with God, our Creator, recalibrate your heart to his timing and his schedule for this Advent season.

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