Zechariah’s Child Brings Hope of Redemption

Zechariah’s prophecy part 2, Luke 1: 76-80. In these verses of Zechariah’s song of praise to the Lord, he focuses on his own new born son and the place and purpose God has for him..

Luke 1:76-80 76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
    through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
    by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.

Here is what scripture tells of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son just as prophesied: John 1:6-8 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” He was known during his ministry as John the baptizer or John the Baptist. Not only did Zechariah give prophesies about John and his mission for God but the ancient prophet Isaiah has also foretold of one coming to pave the way for Jesus hundreds of years before. Matthew 3:1-3 “In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” Mark 1:4 “And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Luke 3:2  during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

All 4 gospels speak of John and his mission to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming. He was to enlighten the Jews as to their sinfulness, like the prophets of old, and point them to Jesus. Zechariah’s prophesy speaks of the condition of the people at that time- living in darkness under the shadow of death. This refers to the bondage of sin that Jesus came to lift and to Him bringing His light of life. John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Not only would Jesus bring the light of life but peace to their souls. In John 14:27 Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

How do these prophesies encourage you today? First, they tell me that God had a plan long ago to redeem us from our sins. He planned to send Jesus to bring us life, light, freedom from sin and peace. Next, God is Sovereign. Over that centuries He wove His plan through the people of God, the Jews, through the line of Seth to Abraham to David to Jesus. He brought them over distances far and wide using rulers who believed as well as those who did not. Only God is Sovereign over time, space, people and things. Only God could preserve His people through thousands of years. Lastly, it strikes me that God is love. He loved us so much that He brought His plan to completion by the sending of His one and only Son, Jesus to die for our sins. John 3:16 says God orchestrated all time and space to bring His Son Jesus and just the right time in just the right place for all the right reasons, to save us. Thanks be to God! Praise Him this season for His love, sovereignty and plan of redemption. He did it for you and me!


Promise Keeping God is Revealed

Today we hear the first half of Zechariah’s prophesy about the coming Savior.

Luke 1:67-75 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
    because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
    and to remember his holy covenant,
73     the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
    and to enable us to serve him without fear
75     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

What do we learn about the coming Messiah from Zechariah’s prophesy? Verse 68 tells us he will be sent by God to redeem or buy back people from the penalty of sin. The Messiah will be the vehicle for that redemption before God. Verse 69, he will be from the house of David, just as God promised to Abraham that though him all people would be blessed. Genesis 12:3 “and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” David was a direct descendant of Abraham. Verses 71 and 72 speak of salvation from enemies and haters which they thought meant the foreign oppressors, Rome, but in the long term our greatest enemy is Satan and Jesus will rescue us from our bondage to sin and its power over us. This is further explained in verse 74 which speaks of freedom, rescue so we can serve Him without fear. God is sending the Messiah as promised as He is remembering the Covenant to Abraham to be their God and they would be His people. Verse 75 tells us that the promised one will be holy and righteous and will enable us to serve him in holiness and righteousness.

This was a lot to take in at the time and much was still hidden from their understanding. More was fully revealed though Jesus’ life, teaching, death and resurrection. Lastly, more is revealed to us through His spirit that indwells us, His Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 14:26 “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” We have the benefit of God’s Holy Spirit to help us understand in a new way God’s plan of redemption, the message of salvation, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the truth of His complete Word. Just as Zechariah was blessed that day by God’s revelation, we too are blessed by our knowledge of Jesus and our faith in Him.

Let the truth of God’s Word and character be renewed in you today. God is who He says He is and will eternally keep His promises. The whole world is indeed blessed by Jesus and His redemptive work on the cross, His death and resurrection. Stand on His promises with hope and conviction this Christmas season as you experience anew Christ’s work in you.


Waiting with JOY!

The birth of a child always brings joy! New life, a new start, a new beginning are all positive events and worthy of JOY! John’s arrival was joyous and mysterious too. As was the custom of the day, the boys were named and circumcised on the 8th day of life. Both were significant events for the birth parents. Their child had survived the birth process and was ready to enter the world with a permanent name. From the text, we can see that boys were to be named after their parent or grandparent or some relative in the past. New names were unheard of, except for John. Elizabeth knew that God had ordained that their son was to be named John and that he had a special mission to fulfill. He would call people to repentance and ready the way for the coming of the Savior. Here is how the scene unfolded.

Luke 1:57-66 “When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”

61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

Is it any wonder that the first words out of Zechariah’s mouth were words of Praise? He had been silent for 9 months knowing he was being held accountable for his doubt. His waiting period transformed his doubt into praise. I love the way scripture describes it, “Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free“. It was as if his tongue had been held captive and his mouth closed. It reminds me of the salvation process. Once you encounter Jesus your mouth is opened to praising God with knowledge of who He is personally to you and you are set free from the bondage of sin. I would imagine Zechariah wanted to praise God because he was overcome by God’s power and goodness. He had not been able to speak those long months and now he could. Has God ever kept you waiting for something you knew would be wonderful? Zechariah knew his son would be just who God wanted him to be and that he was to have a part in it. He was going to be able to have input into the raising of this special child. The waiting increased his faith and caused him to spill over with joyous praises.

One such time of waiting in my life was when God had me waiting to become a mother. I knew that God had a child for me, and that we were going to be a family. Our journey from infertility to adoption was a long one with many twists and turns, but I held to the belief that God had a child for me. After many years of waiting, our daughter arrived from Korea on December 1 and my life was never the same. That first Christmas was one of great blessing and joy! It was wonderful, terrifying and yet so glorious. The waiting increased my joy and strengthened my faith.

Think back to a time when God had you wait. Did the waiting increase your joy? Was your patience rewarded with peace and hope in what you received? If we got everything right away, we would begin to lose the joy and anticipation of what was to come. God’s plan is always for my good and brings Him glory. If you are in a waiting period, take heart and let praises be on your lips. Trust in the goodness of God and let joy be in your heart as you rejoice in the coming of your Savior.


Who can you help? Mary is our example

Advent is a time when we need to show our faith to others and then tell them about Jesus by our actions. It is the perfect time for churches, religious groups and civic organizations help those in need due to poverty, hunger, unemployment and come alongside those who are suffering from broken relationships. Christians seek to show the love of Christ to others with deeds and not just with words. This year, 2022, has been particularly difficult as our nation has struggled to come out from under the global pandemic that has hit us hard economically, physically and mentally. The conditions have improved over 2021, but there are still a great number of people who are sick, out of work or lonely. I have an 80 year old friend that faithfully works at her church’s food bank sorting and filling bags of food for the hungry. Hunger and shortages still exist. Many of those seeking help have never had to ask before as they had always been self-sufficiently employed.

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One verse in our Christmas story brought this to mind. Luke 1:56 speaks of Mary staying with Elizabeth for about 3 months then going home to Nazareth. “Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.” Scripture said that the angel appeared to Mary when Elizabeth was in her sixth month, “In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,” Luke 1:26 Doing the math, it would seem that young Mary who was only just pregnant came to visit Elizabeth when Elizabeth was six months along. She stayed with Elizabeth in the last months of her pregnancy before John was born, when Zechariah was not able to talk (Luke 1:20), and she was probably a great comfort and blessing to this aged mother and father to be. We are not told in scripture that Mary was present when John was born, but I would imagine Mary stayed until John was born and then returned home. By helping Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary was also blessed and comforted as she shared this time with them.

In this one verse God shows us how we are to be supportive of each other and stay the distance. My friend could go and help out occasionally at the food bank but she has made it a priority to give of herself 3 days a week. Many I know, prior to Covid, went regularly to nursing homes to share, sing and pray with residents or visit those in hospitals. Another friend had a brother that had a severe accident and the family ministered to him and nursed him back to health after being released from the hospital. Ministering to those in need shows godly character as we give, are compassionate, merciful and kind. It also opens the door for us to speak of our motivation for doing acts of kindness, Jesus.

As we seek to cope with our own fears after this pandemic, try to find a way to meet someone’s needs this week. It could be a phone call, text, card or letter to a friend you know is lonely or sick. Maybe you can make cookies or bread to leave on their doorstep. Know that things done serving others motivated by our love for Jesus pleases God. Jesus told us in John 13:34-35 ““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Let the world see your love for Jesus through your actions of service towards one another this season and into the New Year.


A Sunday to Celebrate Joy, Advent’s 3rd Sunday

Today is the lighting of the third candle in the Advent wreath. It is called the Shepherd’s candle and represents joy. During the lighting the story is told of the angels appearing to the shepherds announcing the birth of the Christ child and where He could be found. Joy is contagious and once the arrival of the Messiah was proclaimed the shepherds wanted to find the child and worship Him. May you feel that same joy today and may it draw you closer to the Savior.

This next week we will be diving deep into Elizabeth and Mary’s parting, John’s Birth, Zechariah’s Song of praise after being muted for 9+ months, and Joseph’s story. Here are some words of JOY for today as we worship.

Psalm 5:11 “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
    let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
    that those who love your name may exult in you.”

Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Luke 2:10 “And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

Romans 10:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

May we be filled with the joy of the Lord today as we continue to anticipate the coming of the Christ child who brought freedom from bondage to sin through His life, death and resurrection.


Could You Write a Magnificat about God’s Blessings to YOU?

Today’s scripture is one of my favorites. It is know as the ‘Magnificat’ and it is Mary’s response to the Lord and His work within her. It is beautiful and shows her servant heart.

46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”
Luke 1:46-55

Mary starts with her praise to the Lord for what He has done within her. She seeks to glorify God with her words of praise and to acknowledge the enormous blessings He has brought and will continue to bring into her life through the coming child. Then she begins proclaiming the goodness of the Lord as experienced through the ages by her people. He has done mighty deeds and yet held the proud and arrogant ones accountable from the smallest to the highest among them. God has shown compassion by keeping them fed and has helped them even when underserving Israel had strayed. She is thankful for God’s mercies and His promises to Abraham and his descendants. Mary proclaims her God, the God of Israel, is faithful from generation to generation.

Can you echo Mary’s words in your own life?

What is God doing in your life right now that creates in you an attitude of praise? Are you seeing His work within you as you speak to others, seek to help, or show kindness and gentleness to others? God is at work in you in the small things- look for them. How have you seen God’s mercy in the past? Mercy is not giving you what you really deserve. Has He allowed you to work, serve or be in friendships that really should not have been? But God allowed it and brought you blessings because of it. Has God humbled you and helped you change your arrogant attitude towards someone or something? When has God fed you either spiritually or physically that was unexpected? What promises has God faithfully completed in your life? As you ponder these questions consider your blessings. Think about how God has intervened in your life and the transformation it has brought.

Each of us could write a ‘Magnificat’ of our own. God has blessed us with salvation, eternal life, hope, security, a place in heaven, a character that is to reflect Jesus by His indwelling Holy Spirit. His character gives us generosity, kindness, gentleness, self-control, patience, joy, peace…. Like Mary you and I have answers from God that apply to our lives specifically. There is so much to be thankful and praise God for.. do it today!


Shared Joy!

When was the last time you shared a joyous moment with a friend or relative? I hope it has not been too long as those are moments to be cherished. My sister and brother-in-law just celebrated their 70th Wedding Anniversary! At dinner, we asked them to share their favorite trips, funny stories about their children, things growing up that impacted them, etc. It was a wonderful time of sharing. In today’s verses we see the joyous reunion of Elizabeth and Mary as they meet for the first time since they both were visited by the Holy Spirit’s power in a special way. Elizabeth in now 6 months into her pregnancy and Mary’s has just begun. We see Elizabeth’s joy at realizing her baby recognizes the mother of the Lord. This causes Elizabeth to be filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaim the coming of the Lord.

 “At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Luke 1:39-45

One of the things I cherish about this encounter is that it shows normal people engaging each other in normal ways. What is unusual about this encounter is the intervention of the Holy Spirit in their midst. We engage with people all the time, but have you stopped to think that you being indwelt by the Holy Spirit through your faith in Jesus bring the Holy Spirit with you into each encounter. As with Elizabeth and Mary, we need to let the joy of the Lord be with us in conversations and actions as we meet and greet others in our daily lives. God’s power within us has the power to effect and influence others for His good.

What words of praise do you give out? Ours will not be words of prophesy but can give life changing words of encouragement and hope. God has us where we are for His purpose, and we need to take opportunities to speak of Him as often as we can. You can speak words of hope by being a friend, listening with an open mind and heart, praying for the other person even as you speak with them. Look for the God opportunities today and share your joy!


Are you Ready and Willing for God’s Call?

Gabriel delivered a surprising and disturbing message to Mary. She was to become a mother by miraculous circumstances but she was an unwed mother in a time where it could have had dire consequences. Gabriel told her in verse 28 “The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary seemed to accept that the coming pregnacy was a blessing and that she was being touched by God in a wonderful way. Her question was, how? Knowing she had not slept with her betrothed husband, she did not see how this was possible. Gabriel reassures her that it is to be ALL God’s doing. Instead of questioning the Lord’s ability to do this miracle, she accepts it with humility and grace.

You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. Luke 1:31-38

To reassure Mary, Gabriel points her to her cousin Elizabeth who is having a child in her old age. Mary would have been familiar with the circumstances of this miracle and Zechariah’s inability to speak. She would have known of the prophecy of a Messiah to come from her family line and must have had a personal faith in God’s faithfulness and power to do the impossible. Her answer is humble and filled with faith. She calls herself the Lord’s servant and accepts Gabriel’s words as truth.

How deep is your faith? Can you imagine receiving a messenger from God in visible form? Can you imagine such a miraculous message that would totally transform your future? Many times in scripture men and women have received life altering messages from God. Abraham was called to Go and leave his homeland not knowing his final destination. After a vision of God’s throne room, both Isaiah and Jeremiah were called to speak on God’s behalf to the Israelites. Deborah was called to lead the nation of Israel as was Gideon. All of these men and women said, “yes” to God’s call and were blessed in mighty ways. By submitting to God’s leading, their lives were transformed so they could accomplish God’s work. Mary likewise answered God’s call upon her life and would be blessed and remembered for all eternity.

What is God asking you to do? Is there some work or project He is nudging you to accept? Is He calling you to speak, forgive or support someone? Take some time today and ask God. He may reveal His plans to you as He did with Mary or He may keep you in the dark like He did Abraham. In either case, faith and trust in God is involved. Will you answer with faith and humility or unbelief and rejection? Remember that what God calls you to do, He will equip you to do it. Have faith as God’s chosen servant!


God’s Plans can be Unexpected!

In today’s passage, we see Gabriel bringing news to Mary this time, the future mother of Jesus. Just as previously when Gabriel delivered his message, he was aware of Mary and her emotions and feelings. He knew she was afraid because he was a heavenly being and his news was unsettling. She wondered how she could possibly be with child as she was unmarried and had never slept with her betrothed Joseph. Her questions come from fear and concern not unbelief. Gabriel is patient with her and tries to relieve her fears. Mary does not question the fact that God could cause her to be pregnant or that an angelic being is speaking with her or even the validity of the content of his message. Mary accepts these things by faith. Luke 1:26-34

 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

Yesterday we saw Elizabeth’s response to the miracles God brought into her life. Mary likewise is not fearful of being used by God for this great purpose, only curious. As a young Jewish woman she would know the prophecy’s about the coming Messiah. She would know the implications for both she and Joseph if she were to become pregnant outside of marriage. However, she receives the message from Gabriel with wonder. Zechariah questioned God’s ability to bring a child into their marriage because of their age. Mary does not question God’s ability to do this but is curious as to how this can be. Her response to the coming miracle is one of faith and not a question holding doubt in her heart. What about you? When God provides in an unseen way or does something miraculous in your life, do you question His ability to do it? Do you say why or wait a minute this can’t possibly be? God expects us to respond with faith and then thanksgiving which we will see Mary does as the passage unfolds.

One other observation about this passage, Gabriel calls Mary ‘highly favored’ of God and that the Lord is with her. Do you consider yourself ‘favored’ by God? If you know Jesus as your Savior, you are recipient of God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness. His Holy Spirit indwells and empowers you to live for Him. You are definitely highly favored and loved by God!

Today take a few minutes to ponder what God has done and is doing in your life. Look at how you have responded to His goodness and provision. If it is with a thankful heart, keep on thanking Him. If it is with hesitancy or doubt, turn to Him and seek His forgiveness. Remember and claim Jeremiah 29:11 for your life and believe it as Mary and Elizabeth have shown us.  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” They trusted God with the plans for their lives and knew that God’s plans would be for their good and His glory! Can you do the same today, you who are also highly favored by God?


What is your response? Praise or Disbelief?

Today’s scripture focuses on Elizabeth and her reaction to the happenings in their lives. Luke 1:23-25 “When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

Elizabeth saw what had happened to her husband Zechariah because of his unbelief when given the news about their coming child. Zechariah’s sudden muteness was proof of God’s power in a tangible way. Even though she had a reason to doubt that she could conceive and carry a child, as she was old, she responded with faith. Granted she had a bit more information than her husband as she learned about the angel’s message and saw first hand Zechariah’s inability to talk, she still chose to choose faith in the impossible rather than doubt. What about you? Do you seek to disbelieve when the evidence is right before you that God performed a miracle? Do you deny the resurrection because you were not there to see it yourself? Do you disbelieve that Jonah was swallowed by a big fish and was inside the fish for 3 days? Do you disbelieve that miracles of Elijah and Elisha and discount them as untrue? The Bible is filled with miracles given by God to bless his people and increase their faith. To enjoy and experience the miracles of God one must believe!

Let’s look at Elizabeth’s words in response to her pregnancy. She spent time in seclusion to care for the child that was growing inside her. She was protective of this miracle of life that God had given her. She counted it a blessing as God had removed her barrenness and favored her. Being barren was considered a disgrace in her time and caused by God. Elizabeth was glowing as she gave God all the credit and praise for the miracle of life He had given to her. She did not question God’s timing- like why did I have to wait so long? Why did this happen in my old age? No, she praised God and thanked Him for His favor. What about you? Are you one who is quick to thank God? 1 Thessalonians 5:18 reminds us give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Like Elizabeth, our first words need to be ones of thanks.

Think about what is happening around you right now. What do you have to be thankful for and what miracles has God provided in your life? As you reflect on your life with thanksgiving, you will see in a fresh or new way the beauty and praise in Elizabeth’s words and actions.