Monday, December 5, 2011

The Season of Advent, Week 2: Peace - Praying For a Boy

I was thinking about Elizabeth this week. A daughter of the line of Aaron, Moses' brother and therefore in the elite High Priestly family, she was married to Zachariah, who was the priest selected to burn incense in the Holy place in the temple the year Jesus was born - literally, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

This was a couple who loved God and who had given their lives in service to Him and to their community. They had everything, except for the one thing they longed for the most - a son.

I can just imagine them as newlyweds, confident that God would bless their union with a boy. Elizabeth would have dreamed what he would be like: he would be strong and athletic; he'd have a charismatic personality, a natural leader among his contemporaries; he would be intelligent and would use his brains to make life better in some way for the world; he'd be kind to his parents and his family.

And, above all, he would have a heart that would seek after God. God would be his number one priority; and from that, he would seek to serve his community, perhaps as a priest in the temple like his father?

A couple of years went by and nothing. Elizabeth ratcheted up the praying for her heart's desire. Then ten years: still she prayed every day, as her neighbour women seemed to retreat a little bit from her ... twenty: she started to ask God if there was some sin in her life that was preventing her from becoming pregnant  ... thirty: she filled her time with busying herself in her neighbourhood and the women, who had avoided her, started slowly to be won over by her kindness and wisdom and humility ... forty: she stopped praying for a boy. She more than anyone knew that it was impossible.She told Zachariah to stop praying for a son too. There was no longer any hope.

Who knows how many more years creaked on by? Although no more prayers were offered up for a son, sometimes did Elizabeth still dream about him in her sleep? And then one day she realized with a start that she had not dreamed about what her son would be like for a long time. Now she focused on the things of God, focused on creating a peaceful home for her Zachariah, focused on helping her neighbours and being a voice of counsel for the younger women in her community.

We know the rest of the story, know how the angel Gabriel came to Zachariah on the day when he was sent into the Holy place of the temple to burn incense and told Zachariah that his prayers had been answered - those prayers that had not been uttered for years now - and that Elizabeth would have a son. His name would be called John and many people would rejoice in his birth. He would indeed be a leader and a peacemaker, turning the hearts of the parents to their children, and helping the rebels and miscreants see the wisdom in the words of the just.

Most of all, Gabriel told Zachariah, he would have a heart for God, just as Elizabeth had prayed for her son so many, many years earlier. John's name would be great in the sight of the Lord Himself, the angel foretold, and he would turn many people to God. 

And John was everything his mother had prayed he would be. A priest's son from the line of Aaron on both his mother's and his father's side, he would have been educated, particularly in the scriptures. A strong young man, he could sustain long periods of time in the desert, living in the most primitive way. He was indeed a leader full of charisma - people actually followed him out into the desert, where he established his ministry.

John might not have seemed like a likely advocate for peace. There he was, all wild-man in the desert, eating locusts and wild honey. He didn't hesitate to use his knowledge and his opportunity. He didn't mince his words: Vipers, he called the religious leaders of the day. He spoke out against injustice: in the turbulent political and religious repression of the day, he did not hesitate to be a voice for hard-won peace through righteousness.

And to John was given the privilege of baptising Jesus, signalling the start of Jesus' ministry on earth.

I wonder how Elizabeth felt when she heard that her son was in jail ... and then by the ultimate news that would rip her in two: that her son had been murdered by the king for his stand against injustice and sin.

I have to think that the two young men knew each other. Their mothers were close: as a matter of fact it was to John's mother that Jesus' mother went when she found out she was to give birth to the Son of God - and John and Jesus would both both have been told about how when the two women saw each other, John, about three months away from being born, had jumped for joy in his mother's womb.

The birth of John, about six months before the birth of Jesus, was indeed the answer to his mother's prayers.

In the TH we have had one such person: Brent is a young man of great intelligence, a leader among his peers, with a quick, dry sense of humour. He is liked and respected by all with whom he comes into contact. He's modest about his own accomplishments, downplaying second-year university grades in the high 90s.

He is a peacemaker. He seeks out solutions that will benefit all sides. He carries other people's burdens. He follows situations of conflict and tragedy around the world and yearns to be able to offer hope, to create safety and to establish peace.

But most of all, Brent has a heart that seeks God. He is a young man with a deep desire to know Him and to make Him known. 

Isaiah chapter 32 and verse 17 says, "And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever."

It may seem odd to say it, but I see Brent in this verse. He hungers and thirsts after righteousness. He is quietly assured in his own life and in his dealings with people. He seeks to effect peace.

So today, on the second Sunday of Advent, the week symbolizing peace and - this year - the day of Brent's 21st birthday, the day he officially is recognized world-wide as a man, I wish him love, joy, and peace - peace of mind and of heart, peace in his interactions with people, and the ability to create and sustain peace wherever he goes - throughout his life.

He is truly a son any woman would be honoured and grateful to have.


  1. Happy Birthday Brent -- though he may be the son any mother would love, his father is pretty proud of him too!

  2. Wow, that was fantastic. Thank you for reawakening and revisioning the strength and honor of John, and so much of the story swirling about him.

  3. Karyn,
    That was a extremely nice post you wrote for my birthday. i dont really know how to respond to something like that ... i couldn't think of anything but thank you.


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