Our theme for this Advent Season has been “The Songs of Christmas” ….and by that we don’t mean another version of “Santa Claus is Coming To Town” being piped in over the loud speaker at the mall, but instead…. songs which are sung by important characters in the birth story of Jesus in the opening of Luke’s gospel.
Last week Shun spoke about “the Song of Mary” – sung by her after she had heard from the angel Gabriel that she would bear a child, the long awaited Messiah. This week we look at another song of praise found in Luke 1. This time it is the song of Zechariah, a priest, and the father of John the Baptist.
In Luke chapter one we have the miraculous foretelling and birth of two babies: first – John, who we later come to know as John the Baptist, and secondly, Jesus – born to Mary and Joseph. In each case the angel Gabriel announces the miracle of birth. To Elizabeth, miraculous because she is too old to have children. To Mary, because she is still a virgin. We are also told that Elizabeth and Mary are relatives….although we are not sure exactly how.
Zechariah is a priest and one day when he is chosen to perform special duties in the temple, Gabriel comes to him, announcing that he and Elizabeth would have a child, and that they should name him John. This child would be a great prophet and would turn many in Israel back toward God. Zechariah is shocked and asks “How will I know this is true? We’re too old to have children.” Then he is told that he will be unable to speak until the child is born. Everyone he works with…and all the neighbors are surprised at this turn of events. When the baby is born and they are naming John, Zechariah is suddenly able to speak again and he sings the song that we are studying today in verses 68-79. I’ve outlined below what Zechariah emphasizes in his beautiful song.
- God is now acting….. He has come and has redeemed his people.
- This was promised from long ago. (through prophets)
- This is part of God fulfilling his promise to Abraham.
- God is active – both formerly……and NOW!
- He has provided salvation through the line of David
- It is a salvation based on the forgiveness of sins (and therefore begins with repentance of those sins)
- It will shine like light in the darkness
- John will act as a prophet and forerunner….
- It is a salvation available to ALL
- While God’s promise was for “salvation”, God’s method would be “peace”. “To guide our feet into the path of peace….” this is the last phrase of Zechariah’s song.
- Luke mentions “peace” more than any other gospel.
- Zechariah’s statement about the “way of peace” in the beginning of Luke is framed by Jesus’ statement near the end of Luke: “Peace be with you.” (Luke 24:36)
- God’s path, God’s way….is the way of peace. Pax Romana, was the name for the Roman Empire – it claimed to be a rule of peace….but in actuality any peace that existed was maintained by a brutal military force. It was also responsible for the execution of both John and Jesus. God’s way of peace would be completely different.
Can we take these beautiful words in Zechariah’s song and apply them to ourselves – and to our church today?
- God is active and faithful in our lives…..in JCC! Today!
- God’s way is salvation. That is to be our work as well. Salvation through the forgiveness of sins…. the sharing of that message of light to the darkness around us must be the focus of all of our work!
- God’s way is the path of peace. Not by might, force, power, but by the work of God’s spirit.