"But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.
While recognising the stresses and tensions that can surround Christmas, and acknowledging the fact that, for many people, it isn’t the easiest time of the year, it essentially remains a season of joy.
Hypocrisy is defined as ‘claiming to have higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case’. It is the gap that exists between what we profess to believe and what we actually do.
Mention hypocrisy in church and my money would be on the name of one group coming up: the Pharisees. Jesus in Matthew 23 is scathing in his criticism: ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
We often think about hypocrisy in terms of how we relate to others – purposefully giving the impression that we believe certain things and then behaving in ways that contradict this. But this passage reminds us that there’s also a risk of hypocrisy in how we relate to ourselves.
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect."
Ironically, fitting in is one of the greatest barriers to belonging.
This story doesn’t begin with “fitting in”, for the leper doesn’t ‘fit in’ by definition. What the Bible calls “leprosy” isn’t always Hansen’s Disease, but visible skin diseases clearly made people nervous at a time when little was understood about them and fear of contagion was high.