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In this age (and most of the others that came before this one), most of us are inclined to speak before we listen. In fact, we are often inclined to speak before we think!

The story of Zechariah in Luke 1 is a timely word for those of us that are incline this way, as Zechariah loses his voice and gets it back again with renewed humility and power!

Here are five things we learn from the story of Zechariah about having a powerful voice in this day and age!

(1) Being of God but missing the Good News. (Luke 1:5-18)

You can be of God and even considered righteous, but still miss the Good News of God. Zechariah was a religious leader, was considered righteous by the Lord, but still questioned the messenger when Gabriel told him of what God was doing. This, sadly, can often be the case for those of us who believe we are tracking with the Lord. We can be so sure of ourselves or what we have already learned that we are not open to the revelation of what God is doing in our lives currently. We miss the Good News of how the Gospel is currently applied to our circumstances, our surroundings, or even our own lives. Sometimes, the people who need the Gospel the most are those who have already heard the Good News. We can learn from Zechariah that even if we are already of God, we can miss how the Good News will affect our current situation, the world around us, and our own lives!

(2) Losing your voice. (Luke 1:19-20)

If our voice has become useless to the Lord, we shouldn’t be surprised if God takes away our voice. Such was the case with Zechariah! He stopped using his voice to proclaim the Word of the Lord and instead used it to question God’s Word. When we have lost our prophetic voice (for any host of reasons), God may see fit to take our voice away completely. This may especially be the case for those who claim to “speak for God.” We must be careful not to use their voice inappropriately or we may find that we have our voice taken away!

(3) Speaking more powerfully when you are silent (Luke 1:21-25; 57-63)

We may also find that we can speak more powerfully without words. Zechariah’s mere silence was enough for those around him to see that he had been given a word from God. Further, Zechariah was able to show an incredible sign of solidarity with his wife Elizabeth when she wanted to name her son, “John.” Without words, Zechariah communicated God’s word to those around him and was able to draw closer to God and his wife in the process. When we see a need for God’s word to enter in to a situation around us, there may be times when our first reaction should not be to speak, but rather to listen and act.

(4) Praising God when the barriers are removed (Luke 1:64-66)

God will often remove the barrier that exists when he knows that we will be ready to praise him for it! As soon as Zechariah was ready to believe the word of God and praise God for it, God removed the barrier to this praise, which was the block on Zechariah’s voice. It is helpful to ask what barriers exist to God being praised in our lives or the circumstances around us. Perhaps God would like to identify these barriers and remove them so that His praise can go forward!

(5) Getting your voice back (Luke 1:67-79)

The most prophetic utterance that Zechariah had came after this process, after he was filled with the Holy Spirit, and when he had an audience ready to listen. At that point, Zechariah gave a powerful testimony of the Lord’s authority, his ability to remove barriers, and his heart to save the world! The key to this new voice was Zechariah’s willingness to be moved by the Spirit, believe the Word of the Lord, and proclaim the salvation of the Lord to anyone who would listen.

The story of Zechariah is a good one for our time. In climate where some many voices are clamoring to be heard, let us hear the voice of the Lord, believe it to be true, and proclaim it with our own voice. May we faithfully apply the Good News to our lives in every situation, lest God take our voice away as well!

maryconsoleseve

(The Virgin Mary Consoles Eve by Sister Grace Remington)

When it comes to Mary, it often seems that Protestants have thrown out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. Due to a fear of idolizing Mary (which most Catholics and Orthodox DO NOT do) and in an effort to keep churchgoers locked in on the birth of Jesus (which is important during a season of waiting on Him), many Protestants just gloss over the very important traits found in Mary, the mother of Jesus.

With that in mind, here are 7 Awesome Mary Traits (That All Christians Can Celebrate):

Trait 1 – She stands toe to toe with one who stands in the presence of God. (Luke 1:26-29)

Mary was awesome. Most cower in fear when an angel shows up (see Zechariah’s reaction to a similar visit from Gabriel). According to Luke, Mary was simply…perplexed. She moved straight past the shock factor of a visit from Gabriel and straight to trying to understand his message. While most men cower in the presence of an angel, Mary stood toe to toe with Gabriel.

Trait 2 – She has the Lord with her (in her) and receives His favor. (Luke 1:30-33)

Gabriel tells Mary that the Lord is with her. While Mary had not yet become pregnant with Jesus, the angel tells Mary that God is already with her. She receives favor from the Lord. This favor is unmerited and comes before Mary had done anything. God with us (Emmanuel) will soon literally be with her, as she becomes with child. But, before all of this, Mary is willing to receive and in Mary, God finds a willing vessel. This is an excellent example for the Christian. When God comes near, invite him in, and receive His favor.

Trait 3 – She doesn’t ask IF God’s Will will be done, but how. (Luke 1:34-37)

Most of us are caught still asking the question whether or not God is able to accomplish his will. Mary is not concerned whether or not God’s will is able to be done, but how it will be done. Again, contrast this with the way that Zechariah received his message from Gabriel. Mary believes already that God’s Will will be accomplished and asks not IF it will be accomplished, but how.

Trait 4 – She hears the word of the Lord and becomes obedient to it. (Luke 1:38)

Mary understands that it is not enough for the Christian to simply hear the word of the Lord. Instead, the Christian must hear the word, believe the word, and be willing to do the word (see James 1:22). The mark of the Christian is that the Christian becomes obedient to the word of God. Like Mary, we are to have Christ formed in us as we become obedient to the Word.

Trait 5 – She does not hesitate to share the word of the Lord and the work of the Spirit. (Luke 1:39-45)

If we believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths (see Romans 10:9), we will be saved. Mary wasted no time in sharing the word of the Lord and the work of the Spirit with those around her. Like Mary, we ought to boldly share the work of the Lord in our lives and be willing to give our hearts and our lips to the Lord.

Trait 6 – She proclaims God’s justice BEFORE it becomes a reality. (Luke 1:46-55)

The Magnificat (Mary’s Song) is a butt-kicking proclamation for oppression and injustice. In it, Mary proclaims that God has scattered the proud, brought down rulers, and sent away the rich empty-handed. At the same time, she proclaims that God has raised up the humble, filled the hungry with good things, and done great things for the bondslave. And, the original language uses a type of future tense as a declaration that God has already accomplished these things BEFORE they have come a reality in the world. Wow. Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection would literally upset the fallen order of things and restore salvation to humankind. Yes, in Christ’s birth, Mary consoles Eve. And like Mary, the Christian should console the world with God’s justice even in a world where it is severely lacking.

Trait 7 – She rests in God’s promised Word, knowing that it is God who accomplishes his purposes. (Luke 1:56)

The text in Luke 1:56 shows that Mary stayed for three months after this and THEN returned home. Most of us can’t wait three months for anything. Most of us would hear this word and frantically begin working towards the promises that God had just revealed. Rather, Mary rested in the promised Word that the Lord had given her, stayed three months with Elizabeth, and then returned home. After all, Isaiah 9 had prophesied in Isaiah 9 that “the zeal of the Lord” would accomplish all this. None of this is passive for Mary, but all of it rests in the promises of the Lord.

May each of us, today and this Advent season, follow Mary’s example of hearing the Word of the Lord, giving birth to Christ in our own lives, and proclaiming the work of His Spirit to a world in need of his justice!