December 16, 2012
Sunday, 4:00 p.m.
Letter #255: I’m Not Married to a Really Old Lady … Yet
I’m in the midst of a busy December—even without the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping or traffic or parties, it still is a busy month for me. So this morning, I was spending some time in the Word and watching a TV preacher before heading off to chapel services here, hoping to make Sunday a true day of rest and worship.
Since we’re right around the corner from Christmas Day, I read about the activities that led up to Christ’s birth, beginning in Luke Chapter 1, where the the account of John the Baptist’s birth is foretold. Reading the familiar passage again, I was amazed at how certain parts of the story struck me as if reading it for the first time.
Church starts at 8:00 a.m. on Sundays, and though we usually get door unlocks every hour, this morning’s 8 o’clock unlock was delayed several minutes, making four other guys from my pod and me late to the service. I am grateful that our church isn’t across town. In fact, though two of my brothers and their families live in church-provided parsonages, my church building is closer to my front door than theirs is.
Fun fact: My Christmas card this year features a drawing of my church. Well, our Programs Building, actually. The chapel is the third door from the left. If you didn’t receive a Christmas card from me this year, it’s because I don’t have your street address. If you received a Christmas card from this year but wished you hadn’t, it’s because I do have your street address. Either way, I apologize.)
After stepping into the frigid morning air and being reminded that you can’t expect to do any soul-searching at church without a vigorous pat-search at home, courtesy of the California Department of Corrections, we walked the 50 paces to the chapel … and were promptly turned back by a staff member, who told us the chapel was at capacity. No room?!? This was eerily reminiscent of the first Christmas, I thought, as we hurried back to the relative comfort of our dayroom/stable—I mean, dayroom’s table.
We were all in need of a church service, so the five of us had one together, similar to church services you may have experienced over the years, especially if you’ve done prison time. The guys asked me to share a message, which I was glad to do.
Though I attend church services and the occasional weekly Bible Study, I’ve not been asked to speak in the chapel here. This is perfectly fine with me, since I speak (or lead) several times a week in other capacities. Because of my time with God earlier this morning, I felt as if He had given me a message, though it would’ve been nice if He would have given me a heads-up that I’d have to share it. Immediately.
What struck me most about John the Baptist’s dad, Zechariah, is that he was so faithful in his duties as priest—totally sold out to God. In the normal course of his work in the Temple, an angel appeared to him, startling him. The angel tells the old and childless priest that he’ll soon have a son he is to name John, who will be amazing—he’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit, he’ll turn Israelites toward God, he’ll prepare people for the coming of the Messiah, etc., etc.
Zechariah had obviously tuned out after hearing his wife would conceive, because he asked how it would be possible for such an old couple to have a baby. How?!? This seems like a crazy question, since a real-life angel was standing right there, and the pregnancy was such a tiny, insignificant part of the miraculous life that would be led by John the Baptist.
Zechariah isn’t that different from any of us, I reminded the guys (who question that God has big plans for us), when His Living Word is within us! Yet, we question; we live less; we settle.
The last words Zechariah heard—until his son was born—were: “My words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time,” and of course, they were fulfilled. I’m making this Christmas more about believing all God has said about me and acting upon it, even if I’m not married to a really old lady. Yet.
Merry Christmas to you all!