Christmas Magic

Welcome! It’s Christmastime in the Atlantic community. We already celebrated the first Sunday of Advent at Fallowfield United Methodist Church and lit the Hope candle. Advent is my favorite church season. Watching the flickering candles and singing beloved Christmas hymns soothes my spirit as nothing else does. There’s something magical about Christmas music and candlelight, don’t you think?

When I was a kid, I expected everything would be perfect on Christmas. I dreamed of waking up to falling snow and lots of presents. After my brother, sister, and I barreled down the steps, seeing Christmas tree lights reflecting off presents filled me with wonder.

Christmas magic is harder for me to find these days. But wonder-filled experiences aren’t limited to childhood.

This reminds me of Zechariah. You remember the story. While Zechariah is offering incense in the Temple, the angel Gabriel announces that Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth, will have a son. The Bible says Elizabeth couldn’t have children. This would have been a source of shame for Elizabeth in her time and culture.

Being told his wife was going to get pregnant and give him a son when it seemed impossible must’ve felt magical. Seeing Elizabeth pregnant must’ve filled Zechariah with wonder. She would’ve been so happy. Her shame was removed. Now she and Zechariah had something wondrous to light them up.

But Zechariah really blew it. God sent Gabriel to announce that Elizabeth would bear John the Baptist, and Zechariah doubted. His punishment? He was unable to speak for nine months.

I can imagine his shame. Zechariah would’ve had plenty of time to kick himself and relive that event during his silent nine months. He must’ve felt so guilty and foolish for not believing Gabriel when he said Elizabeth would bear a son.

Gabriel only appears four times in the Bible. The first is to speak to the prophet Daniel in Daniel 8:18 and 9:21 after he receives a vision that relates to the great powers of the ancient world and to end times. The second is when he announced John the Baptist’s birth. The final appearance is when he tells Mary she will conceive Jesus by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:26). So when Gabriel comes to talk to someone, they’d better listen.

But I have to stop here and put myself in Zechariah’s shoes. I don’t know what I would’ve thought or felt if I were Zechariah. I probably would’ve been so startled by Gabriel appearing out of nowhere that I’d have stood with my mouth hanging open until he finished talking. I’d like to think I would have pushed logic aside and placed my faith in the angel’s words, believing Elizabeth would have a son in less than a year.

This is the lesson Zechariah teaches us: trust in God and don’t doubt. Despite his doubt, God formed John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb. Zechariah would’ve experienced the joy of fatherhood with a deep sense of God’s power and authority over his life. Imagine his joy, looking into his son’s eyes, knowing he was the forerunner of the Messiah. What could be more wondrous than that?

I hope if you’re missing Christmas magic this year you’ll feel it when gazing on a newborn’s face, seeing an expectant mother, or talking to a proud parent or grandparent. And if this season reminds you of losing a loved one, I hope that Zechariah’s story encourages you. Remember what Gabriel said: “’Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.’” Zechariah had prayed for a child, and though it seemed his prayers had gone unanswered, God had a miracle in store for this special man and woman. God has a miracle planned for you, too. And God’s miracles are more astounding than any Christmas magic we can create.

Have a wonderful week. Blessings!