Luke 1 is one of my favourite scriptures. Far less famous than Luke 2 (“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus” — you know the one), the entire chapter is potent with the intervention of God. Praise, prophecy, and the workings of the impossible — I can’t read Luke 1 without being uplifted and blessed.
For the next three days I’ll be reading the advent scriptures in preparation for Christmas. This morning I read Luke 1, transported back to the temple where the angel Gabriel came to a priest called Zacharias and told him that his barren wife would have a son.
And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias [Elijah], TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Gabriel is quoting Malachi 4:5-6, but interestingly, he only quotes half the prophecy:
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
We often speak of Jesus as the Christmas Child, and some of us hasten to add that He’s not a baby anymore. He’s a King. But this morning reminded me that Jesus, and John the Baptist, and the disciples, were all Christmas children. They were young men. In our culture, we expect the young to do great things and we marginalize the elderly, but biblical culture was quite the opposite. Age was exalted; youth was scorned. But in the time of Christ’s Advent, God determined to use the foolish to confound the wise, to be praised in the mouths of babes and infants, to speak and act through young men and women and to turn the hearts of the older generations to them.
In all of this, we can see a picture of what God was doing. Bringing in a new covenant. Doing a new work. Singing a new song. No matter how young or old we may be when we come to God, in Him we are made new creatures — Christmas children, all of us, praying that the hearts of our fathers will be turned to Christ. G.K. Chesterton said it well in Orthodoxy: “We have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”