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December 02, 2018

Zechariah's Song

Christmas songs fill the malls and the radios earlier it seems each year. Listen or read to find out why we can be thankful.

Mike Gerhardt, 12-02-18 Luke 1:67-80, Zechariah’s (Zachariah’s) Song. There are many names to remember in the Christmas story. You know Dasher and Dancer and Comet and Cupid. But that's a different story. You know Mary and Joseph, Gabriel, Simeon and Anna, the wise men's given names Balthasar, Melchior (Mel-cure) and Gaspar. But how about Zechariah and Elizabeth. Without them, God's promised Redeemer would not have fulfilled scripture prophecy. Luke 1:5-25 tells us Zechariah was a priest married to a godly woman Elizabeth who was barren and they both were advanced in age beyond childbearing. Zechariah entered the Temple's Holy Place containing the altar of incense and was met by the angel Gabriel. Fear a typical reaction to an angel, came upon him and the angel also typically said do not be afraid and your prayer has been heard. What prayer? Your wife will bear you a son. Oh, that prayer. Zach's response: How shall I know this? I need more to verify this as true because we are old! If an angel shows up at your house and tells you something is going to happen, don't question his veracity or you may end up like Zach, silent for nine months. When Zach does speak next, it is a song of praise. Speaking of songs, if we were to compile our favorite Christmas playlist, it would be an extensive group of songs. It’d include songs like All I want for Christmas is my Two front teeth (popular for Noah Morris), Grandma Got run over by a Reindeer to O Holy Night, and Handel’s Messiah. I might include Honky the Christmas Goose by Johnny Bower (famed goalie for Toronto Maple Leafs), I'm Gonna Lasso Santa Claus a country favorite by Brenda Lee, Oh Blimey it's Christmas a song from down under by Frank Sidebottom and Santa and the Sidewalk Suffer by the Crossfires, a 60's rock tune. Some are just silly and give us a good laugh; others have the power to transform human hearts from self-centered to God-centered, to give hope to the discouraged, comfort to the sorrowful, and strength to the weary. That's what Zechariah's song is all about. Zechariah as a priest may also have been a cantor, who would sing the words of God making this a song. The little boy being named (John means grace of God) was the forerunner of the Messiah who would bring salvation to lost sinners and one day deliver Israel from all her enemies. God was visiting His people, but they did not know the time of God’s coming to you. In Luke 19:44 Jesus tells the disciples They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you. Zechariah took literally God’s covenants and promises with Israel and expected God to fulfill them. This is Zechariah from silence to song. This psalm, known as The Benedictus, is filled with Old Testament quotations and allusions. Zechariah began with an exhortation to praise God. Zechariah gave several pictures symbolizing the salvation we have in Jesus Christ: purchase from slavery-redeemed his people (v. 68) redemption from God, deliverance for Israel from danger- rescued us from the enemy (v. 74), forgiveness of sins (v. 77), and the dawning of a new day-rising sun (vv. 78–79) from (Isaiah 9:7) living in darkness. Note the repeated emphasis on salvation (v 69, 71, 77). Zechariah described the Messiah to be Israel’s horn of salvation (v.69). The horns of an animal symbolized its power. The Messiah would deliver the nation from her enemies. He mentioned God’s holy covenant with the house of David (v.69), and the oath God swore to Abraham in Genesis 22:16-18, the promise to rescue his people and save them. Verse 76 described the ministry of John. In October 2010 the world watched as a Chilean rescuer was lowered into the mine where 33 miners were trapped 2300 feet underground. The capsule entered the mine, the rescuer stepped out, and when the first miner emerged alive around midnight the world reacted with tears of great joy. In so many ways, it was a Christmas moment. The miners were trapped in a deadly place they couldn’t possibly escape just like us. We are separated from God because of our sin, facing an awful eternity without Him. Their only hope was a rescuer from above just like you and me. We can no more get to heaven by being good than those miners could dig their way out of that mine. We have one hope - a rescuer from above. Christmas is when the Rescuer from heaven came into our dark world. In the mine, at the Cross, the rescuer traded places with those who needed to be saved. For Jesus, that meant dying to pay for our sin. And the rescue happens when we step into that way out - by putting all our trust in Jesus to be our Rescuer from our sin. Zechariah prophetically described the ministry of the Rescuer and of John (Luke 1:76-79). Zechariah understood the message of the angel, so he foretold that John would be the one to go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him. Isaiah 40:3 A voice of one calling: In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. John would the prophet of the Most High. Verse 77 referred to the Jesus not John. However, John preached the same message of forgiveness of sins in Luke 3:3 John went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. I'm not so sure that Black Friday is the craziest day to be at Wal-Mart. It may be more dangerous the day after Christmas. Especially if you're engaging in that time-honored tradition of exchanging gifts that you don't want for stuff you do want. In a sense, it's that kind of exchange that Christmas is all about; exchanging restlessness for peace, meaning-lessness for purpose, and death for life, because Jesus is the greatest gift ever given. In the Bible's words, God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son. He gave Jesus to be butchered on a cross, the awful death penalty for our sin. We don't really have anything to offer in this great exchange. None of our goodness or religion can ever pay for our sin, it is too great. We just bring our lives and we exchange them for His forgiveness; we bring our hell and we exchange it for His heaven. This could be your day to begin your relationship with Him. Country music star Travis Tritt spent years playing out-of-the-way joints before he made it big in the music industry. Many of the bars were dangerous places, with drunk fans starting fights over the smallest matters. But Tritt found a unique way to keep the peace in such situations. He says: "Silent Night proved to be my all-time lifesaver. Just when the [bar fights] started getting out of hand, when bikers were reaching for their pool cues and rednecks were heading for their gun rack, I'd start playing Silent Night. It could be the middle of July, and every time they would settle down." The path of peace with God on earth is through Jesus as Savior and Lord. Remember the lyrics of Zechariah's song.