"It's mine and you can't have any!" I remember watching a small child receive a ball as a birthday gift. He didn't understand that it was to be shared with others. He clutched it tightly to his chest and refused to let anyone else touch it. It was "his" ball and no one was coming near it. He had no idea of the joy he was missing by not sharing the ball.
Imagine receiving a gift and then being told it was not really yours. Imagine being told you had to share it significantly with others. This is what happened to Zechariah and Elizabeth. They were in their twilight years and had no children. Maybe they had given up hope of ever being blessed with a child. Then, Gabriel appears and announces that they will have a child, and an unusual one at that.
"For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God (Luke 1:15-16)."
In other words, their son will be under what appeared to be a special vow, perhaps a Nazarite vow. Their son was set apart for a special purpose. Even though all Israelites were supposed to be set apart and holy, being under this vow was a different level of set apart-ness. It often signified that the person under the vow was to have a special ministry to the Lord. This was not a person to stay at home and continue the family business. They would have to turn loose of him.
The opening scenes in Luke are reminiscent of the opening scenes in 1 Samuel. Here was a child especially devoted to the Lord under a vow. Hannah brought Samuel to the temple where he was trained as a man of God. There is no indication that Hannah had any remorse. She was thankful and overjoyed that God had granted her a child.
Gabriel said that John would have the same joyful effect on Zechariah and Elizabeth.
"You will have joy and gladness... (Luke 1:14a)."
But that joy would not be limited to just them. It was to be shared.
"...and many will rejoice at his birth (Luke 1:14b)."
Yes, they would have to give John up, but it would not result in sorrow. Instead, it would result in joy for them and many others.
This is what happened to that child with the ball. Eventually he eased up and slowly began to roll the ball back and forth with his parents. Slowly, some of the other kids began to join in and roll the ball back and forth. Eventually there was a yard full of squeals of delight, smiles and laughter.
The Lord has given us many great gifts. He doesn't intend for us to hoard it. Clutching it tightly to our chest doesn't bring joy. Hoarding it is a failure of our responsibility as stewards. However, sharing it will bring joy to us and to those around us.
How are you sharing God's gift?