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Comfort, comfort My people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. We give thanks this morning for Your mercy, O Lord, and now we ask for more. We never exhaust Your mercy. We will never be in a position where we are not in need of more mercy, and so we ask now that You would help us, that You would speak, that You would use this frail, feeble, human instrument to communicate Your words of grace, to comfort and forgive, to speak and to draw near to us, that You would give us ears to hear just the word that You want us to receive. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Every year there is a debate about whether you should be allowed to play Christmas music before Thanksgiving. Clearly it should be against the law, punishable by fines or otherwise unusual torments. Really, they’re wonderful songs and why not hear some of the good ones as much as we can, but that’s just the problem. Only some of the Christmas songs are good ones, at least I’m talking about the ones on the radio and the ones in the mall. There are some amazing Christmas songs, and there are some dreadful ones.
So I was talking to some of my children, trying to compile a list of best and worst. If you like the list, they were my suggestions. If you don’t, they were my family’s. My best Christmas, O Come All Ye Faithful, Of The Father’s Love Begotten, Hark The Herald Angels We Have Heard On High, Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, I mean, you could go on. There’s lots of really good ones.
Here’s some of the worst: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, very confusing for children, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, just really wrong on a lot of levels, I do not like the John Lennon So This is Christmas, Santa Baby terrible, The Christmas Song by Alvin and the Chipmunks [laughter]. Hearing that a half a time is one time too many. Well, there are many others, and you’ve probably heard those and we’re listening to some of the channels that just play Christmas music and they play about the same 10 or 12 songs all month long.
And while we all have a lot of those Christmas songs running through our playlist and in the background of malls and movies, perhaps we don’t think enough about the inspired Christmas songs. That is, those songs that we read in the Bible. We have been looking at them, beginning last week and now again this week, these songs in the Gospel of Luke.
Now, it’s doubtful that they came out of the mouth of Mary or Zechariah immediately as a song, but they have the look and the feel of music, of poetry, and they have often been called songs and they have often been put to music. They are known by their Latin names often, simply the first words of the song in the Latin vulgate, and so Mary’s song as we saw last week is sometimes called The Magnificat. This morning, the song of Zechariah is called The Benedictus, “blessing.” The song of the angels in chapter 2, Gloria, and then the song of Simeon later in chapter 2 often goes by the Latin name, though you may not have realized it, Nunc Dimittis, which means “now depart.” He says “now may Your servant depart in peace.”
We aren’t going to look at the song of the angels this year, but instead on Christmas Eve we’re going to look at what you might think of the, the fifth, or the honorable mention, of the songs, The Song of Anna, the prophetess. We don’t have her words recorded, except we know that she gave thanks and she spoke of the redemption of Jerusalem, and so sometimes it’s referred to as Anna’s Song, though we don’t have the words to it.
This morning we are back in Luke chapter 1, Zechariah’s song, The Benedictus. And let’s pick up the reading where we left off last week, and we will begin with the birth of John the Baptist in verse 57.
“Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered, ‘No; he shall be called John.’ And they said to her, ‘None of your relatives is called by this name.’ And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called.”
Remember, Zechariah has not been able to speak during the duration of this pregnancy.
“And they made signs inquiring what he wanted him to be called, and he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, ‘What then will this child be?’ For the hand of the Lord was with him.”
“And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,” Benedictus, in the Latin, “‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath that He swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.”
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
“And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.”
Three things to note about this song. Number one, it is a song of second chances. Number two, it is a song of blessing. And number three, it is a song of hope.
Number one, this is a song of second chances. Zechariah was a good man who failed his big moment. If you turn back the page to the beginning of chapter 1 you see just what a good man he was. Verse 5, he was a priest of the division of Abijah, and not only was he a priest, but his wife was from the daughters of Aaron. She was from a priestly line. Her name was Elizabeth. And we read in verse 6 they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. That doesn’t mean they were morally perfect, that’s simply the Hebraic way of communicating these were obedient people. Sometimes we think that we can’t ever speak of God’s people as being obedient, that somehow that discredits God or gives us too much credit. Well, here it says in terms of basic obedience, not perfection, not meriting eternal life, but they were good Jews. They followed the law, they had been obedient. They were the sort of people that would serve in leadership in your church and on committees and they would be people you would like to have as your neighbor, Zechariah and Elizabeth.
But Elizabeth was barren, as often happened in Scripture to those who were on many occasions most blessed by the Lord, had this unique burden and struggle, and so they prayed for a child and in their old age, verse 13, their prayers were answered. And not only would they in old age, Elizabeth whom was thought to be barren would have a child, their child we read would be great before the Lord, verse 15. He would be filled with the power and the Spirit of Elijah, verse 16. They understood that one of the prophecies entailed that Elijah or the spirit of Elijah would come to prepare the way for the day of the Messiah and this child of this old couple would be this Elijah, come in the flesh. Not an incarnation of Elijah, but the spirit of Elijah.
And yet, perhaps not surprisingly, Zechariah had a hard time believing this word. Look at verse 18. He said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” It sounds like an honest question, it is. You may say, “Why so hard on Zechariah? It is a miraculous thing that’s about to happen, but you see part of what Luke is trying to do is to make a deliberate contrast between Zechariah and between Mary. The angel announced the good news to Zechariah about a miraculous baby, and he did not believe. Gabriel then announces the good news to Mary about a miraculous baby. Now notice she has the very same sort of question Zechariah says in verse 18, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man.” Verse 34, Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I am a virgin?”
Pretty good questions. How can this be, I’m old; how can this be, I’m a virgin. And it’s one of those times where we don’t know the manner in which it was said, but apparently there was something in the manner of it or something in the heart of Zechariah that was different than in the heart of Mary. Perhaps Mary’s “how can this be” was a kind of wonder, how can this be? Whereas Zechariah’s was the how of incredulity, how can this be? There must have been some difference between these two questions, even though they sound very similar to us.
We see that Mary had faith. If you look over in verse 38, after the angel says that she will have a child, her final response is “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to Your Word.” And verse 45, Elizabeth says “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” So fundamentally, Mary received this miraculous message, and she said “that’s amazing, but I believe it.”
And somehow reading between the lines, Zechariah received a miraculous message and he said, “How can this be? I don’t believe it.” We are meant to see the contrast between Zechariah and Mary.
And not only their difference in response, but consider their difference in their position. Mary, as we saw last week, this unmarried woman, a teenager, 13 or 14 perhaps, of low estate. Zechariah, he’s a godly man, but he’s a priest, he’s married to a woman of the line of Aaron, he would have been an elite member. If someone should have been in a position to believe something like this, Zechariah should have been. And if there was someone who would have been excused for not believing it, it’s Mary.
And Mary’s word was harder to believe. See, there’s a contrast here as well. Think about it. Zechariah, where was he when he received this message? Well, he was on duty in the temple. Zechariah was given a word in the temple about his special son. Well, that’s hard, but Mary’s word was even harder to believe, for she was given a word about her special son that would make her effectively a kind of temple. What is a temple? A temple is where the God lives, or in the tabernacle, or the temple in Jerusalem, a symbolic representation for the presence of God. There’s a deliberate contrast. Zechariah, he’s there in the temple where God’s presence is. Should have been reminded with all the glory and splendor and holiness that this God could do such a thing. Mary, without all of those positions and all of those trappings, is given an even bigger announcement, that she will effectively be a kind of temple for the Lord, as her womb will become the place where God in the flesh will dwell, in a much more glorious way than even that magnificent temple.
As a result then, of his unbelief, Zechariah was rendered mute for 9 months and 8 days, count up to the date of circumcision, on account of his unbelief. But he’s given a second chance, and he makes good on his opportunity. Notice in verse 59 he proceeds with covenant obedience, the child is presented on the eighth day to be circumcised. Again he and his wife are obedient to give the name that the angel had commanded. In that culture it was common that you would give the name of your father, if not the name of your immediate father, then one of your fathers.
When my wife was pregnant with our first and we were deciding on names and not telling them, we just called the baby for those nine months “Kevin, Jr.,” which I thought was, I mean, not a terrible idea, but somehow it didn’t end up a Kevin, Jr., and somehow in four other chances with sons we haven’t gotten a Kevin, Jr., yet, but that would have been very common. No hard feelings. [laughter] See, we went down the path of Bible names, Ian is a Scottish or Irish version of John, and then we were on to Bible names and alas Kevin is not in the Bible, though I’m told it means gentle, handsome, and kind. [laughter] At least that’s what my mom told me.
So they’re all confused. Why aren’t you giving him your name? You don’t even have any Johns. And they say, “No, we’re giving him the name John.” And he writes it down and now he has passed this test, that he has learned, “I am obedient now to the message that was given to me, I believe it, it’s here, the child, and he will be called John,” and then his tongue is loosed, and verse 64 he begins to bless God.
Have you ever stopped to think amazing story, love this story, seems like a bizarre punishment. Why that? Why disbelief, I mean, give him a cold for nine months, we all know how husbands are with colds. I mean, give him a limp, give him a mark on his forehead. Why tie up his tongue so that he cannot speak?
But you realize there is rich symbolism here as well, for think about it, who was Zechariah’s son, this miraculous child? John. John the Baptist, as we call him. And what role would John play in redemptive history? He would be the one to prepare the way for the Messiah. He would be the voice crying in the wilderness, the prophet to announce the coming of the Word made flesh. And so do you see the connection? Zechariah’s punishment was not cruel and unusual, it was theologically perfect. The priest’s voice was taken away until the day when the voice crying in the wilderness had arrived.
Zechariah’s speechlessness was another enacted sign that the time of God’s silence was coming to an end. That God would once more now climatically speak to His people, first through the voice, then by the Word. And so those so-called silent years from Malachi to John the Baptist, without a prophetic witness, were parabolically symbolized here in Zechariah’s speechlessness only to make even clearer that God now is giving His penultimate voice to the Word who will be that ultimate revelation of God.
So you see the second chance is not just for Zechariah, but for Israel. Remember the Old Testament closes with this prophecy, “Behold. I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes and he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” That’s how Malachi ends, with that blessing and that potential curse. There’s a blessing of Elijah to come to prepare the way, but there’s also the threatened curse, that you must turn, that you must repent.
And so it’s no wonder that John the Baptist’s chief message will be to repent, to believe, to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, to turn away from the sins of your fathers and now receive this in time blessing from God. Do you see who John is? Do you see that John entails? God is opening His mouth once again. By the voice of John, He will warn the people, call them to repentance.
So this song means another chance for Zechariah, but more than that, it’s another chance for Israel, and we can say even more than that, it reminds us that there’s another chance for you.
What have you done with the Lord’s second, third, four hundredth, one millionth chance? Those times when you thought you had finally exhausted God’s mercy, or those times some of you perhaps miraculously or perhaps ordinarily and yet no less from God’s hand were brought through a difficulty with safety, and brought back from the brink of some diagnosis or some illness, or perhaps can look and remember a time in your life when you were so far from the Lord, but here you are, and God’s spoken to you and God’s given you another chance.
Or perhaps that moment is now, this morning, you know, even if no one else knows, as you’re dressed up and you’re looking nice and you’re here in this nice place on another nice Advent Sunday, singing these nice songs. You know that that’s not what’s going on in your heart right now. That if people saw you’re much more like the end of this song, sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death. But God extends to you another chance, another opportunity to repent, to believe, to say you don’t have to go through another year and another Christmas far from the Lord, wondering if your sins have been forgiven. You don’t have to live this way.
You know, people say, “Well, he’s hit rock bottom.” Sometimes when people hit rock bottom, they start to dig, and they find another layer and another layer. Maybe that’s where you are. Far from the Lord, though no one knows it. Living a life of darkness, though you manage to show up on Sunday for 90 minutes with enough brightness so no one knows. If God is opening His mouth to speak to you as He does every Sunday from His Word, you have ears to hear, to listen.
Some of us are like Zechariah, nice people, good people, then it comes to our big moment and we blow it. But that’s not the ultimate lesson from Zechariah, because what made him a godly, righteous man is that when he blew it and when God gave him another chance, then he listened, and he learned. It’s not that good Christians get everything right the first time, it’s that godly men and women and children learn from those mistakes as God gives a second, third, and four hundredth opportunities. This is a song of second chances.
Second, this is a song of blessing. Mary’s song, The Magnificat, starts narrow and goes broad, from personal blessing to then national blessing. Zechariah’s song moves in the opposite direction. It starts with God’s mercy, broad, to His people, and then the second half ends with attention to His special child.
Notice that Zechariah recounts that the Lord has done three things by way of blessing. Verse 68, He has visited and redeemed His people, He has raised up a horn of salvation from the house of David, that means a strong one will come from David’s line, that’s what a horn symbolized. This metaphor sort of morphed throughout the years, a horn could be the horn of an ox signifying strength, maturity, vigorous power. Remember there were also horns on the altar, little hooks or horn shapes on the altar which then became symbolic of the Lord’s atoning grace and mercy. And then the warrior’s helmet might sometime have horns upon it. So the horn of salvation is the strong one, the mighty one, who will come from David’s line.
And third, He has spoken, verse 70, by the prophets of old. God says, “I have set you free, I have set up a king, and I have sent you My messengers.”
Or you could summarize this work of blessing with three R’s: Redemption, royalty, revelation.
“I’ve redeemed you, I’ve purchased you, I’ve set you free from your enemies.”
Royalty: “I have given you a strong one, a Messiah, a king, a horn from David’s line.”
And revelation: “I have opened My mouth to speak.”
That’s what Zechariah recounts as the Lord’s blessing to him and to the people of Israel.
Now notice how explicitly biblical and theological is Zechariah’s expression of praise. That when his tongue is finally loosed and he explodes, prompted by the Holy Spirit with this expression of praise, overflowing from his heart, is Bible and theology.
If we were to explode in praise, what would it be for? If we’re honest, if we were overflowing and just said, “I have such wonderful news,” what would it be? Maybe “I got the job! Look at my grades for the semester! Look at these test results from the doctor! Look at this Lexus in our driveway!”
Who does that at Christmas? In some of the commercials there are his and hers, they’re getting two Lexi? [laughter] Is that possible? If you’re planning on that, just check how the church offerings are doing first [laughter] before you give two Lexuses.
Now, listen, we should not feel bad for being grateful for jobs and good grades and good health. Please don’t hear that. Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of light. Yes, give thanks for those things. Give thanks for new cars, but not less thanksgiving for those things. That’s not the point, but rather more thanksgiving for the biggest things.
It’s wonderful to come before the Lord and say, “I got a job, I got a good relationship, I got a good test score, my health is great.” Yes, come to God. But you do realize it does not take a work of the Holy Spirit to be thankful for those things. You don’t have to be a Christian here this morning and be glad for those things. Everyone wants those things. It doesn’t take a miracle of grace in your life to say, “I’m feeling healthy.” That’s wonderful.
This takes a miracle of grace. This takes supernatural sovereign joy, to rejoice not only in those circumstantial blessings, but in the big things that God, whatever your health right now, whatever your relational status, whatever you like or don’t like about your job, that if you are in Christ, God has delivered you from sin, the flesh, and the devil, that’s better news. That no matter who is in power in this state or city or in Washington, D.C., that God has established Christ Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords and He never runs for reelection. And that no matter how lonely certain days or seasons may be, that God has not been silent. He has spoken to us. These are the things that explode out of Zechariah and his song of blessing.
And then notice he recounts reasons for these blessings, three blessings and then four reasons. Three plus four, seven. Maybe it’s intentional. He says why, why has God done this, that we should be saved from our enemies, 71. That He would show us mercy, to remember His covenant with Abraham. And then fourth, to grant that we might serve Him. It’s that interesting, verse 74 says we might serve Him without fear, when Mary said in her song, verse 50, His mercy is for those who fear Him. In one way almost, almost all of biblical theology, God’s transcendence and His imminence, comes down to how both of those things are true. His mercy is for those who fear Him, and yet He wants us to serve Him without fear, that is without a servile quaking fear but with an awe and adoration and reverence and respect.
We get ourselves into trouble when we think God is only motivated by one thing, He only blesses us for one reason, whether that motivation is, well, it’s because of God’s love, or because of His holiness, or because of His justice, and we try to flatten out what the Bible says, and we think that God’s got a one track mind, He’s only ever doing one thing and the one thing He’s ever doing for one reason.
Well, here we see He is aiming to accomplish many things with these blessings. He means to save us, to show us mercy, to remember His covenant, and to grant that we may serve Him. Salvation is always with the aim of service.
Remember, of course, in the Exodus, that Moses didn’t just come to Pharaoh and say, “Let my people go,” but the message from God was “let my people go that they may go off into the wilderness and they may serve Me.” It was always salvation for service, it was always redemption for rejoicing, it was always, “Let My people go that they may worship Me.”
So God has done three things for four reasons, and all of this has been set in motion because the time of fulfillment is at hand. The forerunner has been born, the Messiah has been conceived, the long awaited deliverance has come.
It’s a song of second chances, it’s a song of blessing, and then finally it’s a song of hope. Two halves to this song. The first, as we just saw, is broad, national, what God does for His people.
Then there’s a transition in verse 76, “And you, child,” so it goes from broad to narrow, and now the focus is upon this child. John is a special child. He will be a prophet, verse 76. He will give knowledge of salvation, verse 77. He will announce good news of forgiveness, the second half of verse 77.
But we know, and Zechariah and Elizabeth also knew, that their son, as special as he was, was not really the point.
And incidentally, it’s actually a good reminder for us parents, grandparents, we love our kids and we love our grandkids, and judging by most Christmas letters we all have the most amazing, spectacular kids and grandkids that have ever graced the face of this planet, doing amazing things, climbing mountains, just doing amazing things. That’s wonderful, that’s good. Special children, special grandchildren.
But surely if Zechariah and Elizabeth could say about John the Baptist, about their son, if they realized, “You know, he’s kind of not the point,” then you can realize about your children and I can about mine, they’re kind of not the point.
The whole purpose of John was to point to someone else. And we don’t do our kids and grandkids any favors, as much as we love them and as much as we want to encourage them and support them, then we don’t really do them any favors if we give them the sort of worldview that says, “You know what? You see this great big universe, this great big solar system, every planet revolves around you. And I’m gonna parent you in that way and I’m gonna defend you in that way and I’m gonna shape my whole life and I’m gonna set your, your soccer schedules as if it was the Olympics every single weekend.” It doesn’t really help.
Zechariah and Elizabeth understand that yes, they are having a special son, one who is foretold by biblical prophecy. Okay? None of our kids were foretold by biblical prophecy. Theirs was, and yet they realized he’s not the point, he’s a pointer. The hope is not in the child to come from Elizabeth, but in the one that her child will announce. He will be a prophet, but the whole of the prophetic tradition is being brought into the present by John, but then finding its final completion and fulfillment in Jesus. For Jesus is the sun, s-u-n, of righteousness who will rise with healing in His wings, the prophecy from Malachi, which I think the language is picked up there in verse 78, “the sunrise shall visit us from on high.”
This visitation is according to the Lord’s tender mercy, verse 78. According to the splanchna, and all your study Bibles will tell you that that word literally means “bowels,” from the depth and the innermost parts, the bowels of God’s mercy, His compassion, His tender affection, because of that, He sent this child to prepare the way for the Messiah. God saw people sitting in darkness and He purposed to give them light.
Now when your roommate or your child or your thoughtless spouse flicks on the lights at 6 in the morning when it’s still dark, you don’t consider that a blessing. When your children or grandchildren will be rapping on your door at 5:59 a.m. on Christmas because they’re so excited for the birth of our Savior, no doubt [laughter], “Mommy, I want to celebrate the incarnation. Wake up.” That’s what, [laughter], that’s what they’re thinking. It comes out as presents, but that’s what is deep in their heart. You don’t consider it a blessing to have light in the midst of darkness.
But when God shines light in the midst of darkness, it’s because of His tender mercy, it’s because He loves you that He won’t let you live in the shadows. If God didn’t care about you, He would leave you to your own devices. He wouldn’t convict you of sin, He wouldn’t give you a conscience, He wouldn’t give you that sting in your heart from the Holy Spirit, He wouldn’t speak to you in His Word, He would say “so be it.” That’s the ultimate punishment from God. Romans 1: “He gave them over to their depraved minds and hearts and lusts.” He said, “You want to be in darkness? Live in darkness.” That’s about the worst thing that God can do to us. It’s His mercy, His compassion, that shines light.
Is it possible God has been trying to shine light into your life, you’ve been squinting, you’ve been burying your head back under the covers, you don’t want His light, you’re running back into the darkness, when God doesn’t mean to harm you, He means to help you, and of course light is painful when you’ve been in a dark cave for weeks or months or years or decades, but the light is there to show you the way, the sun is rising with healing in its wings.
And one of the things we’ve learned since moving to North Carolina is that the winters are pretty mild, and when it’s, when it’s cold, it’s usually sunny. The coldest days are when it’s been clear all night. No cloud cover, frost, and it might be 25 degrees. You have to put on a sweatshirt [laughter] to go outside, but you know what? The sun is warm. And when you’re cold, you want the warmth of the sun. When you’re in darkness, you welcome the light.
So God’s Son, S-o-n, has come that the s-u-n might shine, its warmth might be felt, its direction might be heeded.
So, yes, John is a big deal, but do you see how his whole family understands that he’s not the biggest deal. In fact, you could say some of the first and best theologians of the church are in this family. You have Elizabeth. One book I was reading this week says Elizabeth is the first explicitly trinitarian theologian in the church.
Look at verse 41: “She heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,” so there’s the Spirit. Verse 43: “Why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” the second person of the trinity, the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And then verse 45: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord,” that is the Lord God the Father, who spoke by the angel to her. So Elizabeth here filled with the Holy Spirit, welcomes the arrival of the Lord Jesus Christ the Son, and Mary who has believed the Word from the Lord, our heavenly Father.
Then you have John, her son, may have been the next of the great theologians to recognize the meaning of the incarnation, for what does he do but he leaps, verse 41, “the baby leaped in her womb,” even John, a baby, you see here incidentally something of the preciousness of life in the womb, already this unborn child is enacting out a profound theological drama. Now, supernaturally, of course, but quickened by the Holy Spirit, leaps, that even this child in the womb recognizes that when Mary comes to visit Elizabeth that there is one in her womb who is greater than He.
It’s like David dancing with all his might around the ark as it parades into town, the ark symbolizing the presence of the Lord, how could David be silent, how could he not get up and rejoice when God is present and so like King David when the ark came, now when the presence of God is his midst, this little teeny baby John begins to dance in his mother’s womb.
And then you have Zechariah, the father, professing that John will be a servant of the Most High, who while prepare the way for the Lord. You see that in verse 76: “Kyriou” in the Greek.
Jesus, in verse 43, was previously called Lord. Now if you go back and you read the prophecy in Isaiah 40 or the prophecy in Malachi 3, there the preparing for the way of the Lord is God Himself coming. Well, here, of course, we don’t have to choose, for it is the fulfillment of that, God Himself coming, but it is God coming in the form of the incarnate Lord Jesus. Jesus’ name means “Yahweh saves,” enacting His own name. When the Messiah comes, God comes, so Zechariah professes something of this mystery of the incarnation and the trinity.
So don’t be too hard on Zechariah; this is a family that knows how to celebrate Christmas.
So here’s my final question for you: What is your response to Christmas? I know, I know, busy and parties and presents and stressful and anxious, but nostalgia and tradition and all of that, really, the message of Christmas, the coming of the Messiah, the birth of the Christ child, the unfolding of the mystery of the trinity, the incarnation, Immanuel, God with us… What is your response to Christmas?
Elizabeth is exclaiming, Mary is magnifying, Zechariah is blessing, and baby John is leaping, later the angels will be glorifying for they know that this is good news. And this is a happy day.
And they, like we, should rejoice and be glad in it. It’s possible, perhaps even likely, for some of us, we have lost something of the wonder of Christmas, of the stupendous, world-altering, universe-changing good news that’s worth shouting, singing, exclaiming, leaping, glorifying, blessing, and magnifying.
What is your response to Christmas? Will you be like Zechariah, Elizabeth? Little kids, young people, if even the baby got it, you can get it, too, and rejoice in this good news that is for all the people.
Let’s pray. Our gracious heavenly Father, we give thanks for Your many blessings, and we pray that this old, old story would sing once again in our hearts, and we would be overflowing and exploding with praise for the good news that Immanuel has come to earth, God with us. We pray in His name. Amen.