Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Advent and Experiencing God

Our church is presenting a weekly small group series on Advent. Last night was the first session, and the text was Luke 1:1-25, which is the account of the priest Zechariah, and the news from the Angel Gabriel that he and his wife Elizabeth will soon have a son. This son will become John the Baptist, who was to prepare the people of Israel for the arrival of the Lord Jesus Christ. Zechariah and Elizabeth are childless, and are also quite advanced in age, so when Zechariah hears this news he questions Gabriel.  As a result, Zechariah is struck mute until the child is born. 

Having grown up in the church, I've heard this story hundreds of times, but God always has a way of teaching me something new about His Word. One thing that I learned from this passage is that God is faithful. Zechariah and Elizabeth had probably been praying for many years for a child, yet remained childless. Finally, when they had most likely given up all hope, they are blessed with a child. As Gabriel tells Zechariah, "Your prayer has been heard."  God heard the prayers of Zechariah and Elizabeth, and answered them in His perfect timing. How many times I've prayed, and when my prayers weren't immediately answered given up, assuming that God didn't care or was too busy with more important things. This passage shows me that God does hear our prayers and answers them in His own time. It reminds me that I have such a small view of God's Kingdom; yet God, who is omniscient, knows what I need, and when I need it. 

One of the biggest lessons I learned last night is that I often miss the presence of God. Zechariah was alone in the temple offering incense to the Lord when the Angel Gabriel appeared. What a privilege to be in the presence of the Angel of the Lord! Now that we have the Holy Spirit, we are able to be in God's presence at all times.   But how often do I take this for granted?  How often am I too busy to spend time In prayer and reading His Word, and when I do, how many times am I too distracted to focus on Him?  And even more so, how often am I too busy talking to him rather than listening to what He may be telling me?  How many blessings have I missed by not being present to God?

The last lesson I realized last night is the importance of studying God's word with others. While my own individual Bible study is valuable and instructive, it is also beneficial to meet with others to study His Word.  Here is where I learn new things, and gain new insight into the scriptures.  This is one reason why it's impossible to be a Christian without the church, and one reason why the Lord created the church- to teach one another and to build up one another so that we may be ready for Christ's return.