Recently during a staff devotional, my senior pastor was leading us through discussion on the announcement regarding the birth of John the Baptist found in Luke 1:5-25.
If you are not familiar with the story, here is a summary:
Zechariah, a priest from the line of Aaron, and his wife are both described as “upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly” (Luke 1:6). But, and this is a big but, especially in Jewish culture during this time, Elizabeth was barren, and by the time we are introduced to them in Luke, “they were both well along in years” (Luke 1:7), or to put it plainly, they were past the age where it was possible to have any children.
Zechariah’s division of priests were chosen by lot to go and burn the incense. And it seems that this was a special and hugely significant day for any priest—to represent the nation of Israel to God. This would seem to be the zenith of Zechariah’s priestly career. As he is performing this all-important task for the people, the angel Gabriel appears to him, and tells Zechariah that he and Elizabeth are going to have a son, but not just any son, John the Baptist, who will prepare the way for the coming Messiah. Zechariah cannot believe this news, and as a result Gabriel tells Zechariah that he will not be able to speak until John is born.
What caught my attention in reading this story this time was the inability of Zechariah to receive God’s gift to him personally. This inability feels all the more stark to me because of what Zechariah is doing: he is helping God’s people receive God’s grace and goodness in the very moment God wants to give him one of the greatest gifts a father can receive, a child.
Zechariah’s inability to receive in the midst of giving so much made me reflect on my life as a pastor. So much of my time is spent on helping others see the work of God in their lives. And I absolutely love this part of my job. I love helping others take notice and receive God’s love.
But, and this is a big but, how often do I take time to receive God’s love and grace to me personally? Am I so caught up in helping others that I cannot even receive God’s gifts to me?
I know many of us as small group leaders are in the midst of preparing for 2017, and there are probably way too many things to get done between now and the 2017 launch of small groups, leaders to train, curriculum to write, strategic plans to pray through, not to mention all the logistical issues of overseeing a small groups ministry. And I did not even mention all the holiday events simultaneously happening (Christmas Eve services).
In the midst of such busyness, my challenge to you and to me is to take time to reflect and receive what God has and wants to give to you this Christmas season. Take time to reflect not only on 2016 as a whole, but more specifically this Christmas season. Ask God for eyes to see the gifts He is giving you, even as you minister on behalf of so many others.