When was the last time Zechariah or his wife had prayed for a son? For decades, it was all they prayed for, but as age caught up with them, the sinking feeling that they were never going to become father and mother to any child set in, and they must have–quite understandably–given up on their prayers.

So when the angel suddenly appeared to him, announcing that “Your prayer is heard,” the stunned Zechariah must have thought, “What prayer?”

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We can’t blame him. Even the most spiritual people get tired repeating an unanswered prayer. Even the most optimistic eventually allow reality to set in, and they decide–with reason–to give up.

When the angel appeared to him, Zechariah had forgotten his prayer for a son and had surrendered this hope.

He and his wife Elizabeth had suffered enough over-hearing all the cruel words murmured by their neighbors behind their backs. They had simply decided to grow accustomed–and become resigned–to a life of childlessness; this has become their comfort zone.

By the time the angel intruded into their lives, they no longer felt ready or fit to play parents–much less to a prophet! They had grown allergic to God’s surprises.

The angel’s invitation to Zechariah is two-fold.

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The first invitation is: REVIVE YOUR HOPE!

One reason why Zechariah could not bring himself to believe the angel is that he had long given up on a son. Indeed he had every reason to do that; it was really the one and only option that he and his wife had, given their old age. All his life he had waited for a son, but now God wants to grant his request long after he had stopped waiting.

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The second invitation is: RECEIVE YOUR GIFT! 

Sometimes we are afraid of a gift that’s “too good to be true.” Either we feel that we do not deserve it or we suspect that it will come at a costly price that we may not be willing to pay. But God asks us to believe that when He gives us a gift, He gives it freely–not because we deserve it or because He wants something back. It is a gift given purely out of His love for us. And the only proper response is to receive it gratefully.

How about you?

Pause here and think about your life here and now, reflecting on the following questions. Feel free to play this instrumental piece if you think it will help.

Could something similar be going on in your life?

Is there a prayer that you’ve learned to forget?

Have you given up your hopes on something–or someone?

Could you be stuck in some comfort zone
that makes you allergic to surprises
that God may want to send your way?

Is it possible that the Lord is asking you
here and now
to revive your hope?
To receive your gift?

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Music: Julian Lloyd Webber’s “Music When Soft Voices Die”