When John was born and his father Zechariah could speak again, he “was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old’” (Luke 1:67-70).
The Old Testament prophets of God played a dynamic role in the advent of Christ. For more than a thousand years they had called God’s people to repentance and predicted the coming the of Lord himself to shepherd, rule and save his people. Their vivid images of God’s judgment was always accompanied by a promise of restoration. Living under Roman rule, Zechariah knew well the judgments an unfaithful people brought on themselves. I wonder if he ever imagined he would witness the hoped for salvation?
Those “holy prophets” were a wild bunch. Elisha called out the she-bears to teach some mocking youths a lesson (2 Kings 2:23-24). Isaiah preached naked for three years (Isaiah 20:2-3). Hosea married a prostitute to illustrate his message (Hosea 1:2). Jonah’s prayer closet was the inside of a great fish. Daniel’s was a lion’s den.
Woven through their messages, though, are images of the Christ, God’s “anointed one,” who would one day save and rule the people with righteousness and justice, with mercy and compassion, with humility and sacrifice, and with power and glory. Their images help us to identify Immanuel, “God with us,” when the babies start coming for Mary and Elizabeth.
I still like to listen to the prophets. Every Sunday School kid loves the experiences of Jonah and Daniel. The kid in me loves to hear about them, too.
Thank you, Lord, for the voice of the prophets who spoke of your advent. Amen.