June 28, 2010 David Balzer

Luke 1:57-80: Zechariah gets it right!

At Christmas, it’s easy to lose sight of Christ, isn’t it? So much happening on an EARTHLY level/ that God, and his purposes in Jesus, just seem to fade into the background.

There’s the shopping. And the wrapping of presents. Getting food ready. Going to carols services. End of year parties. Entertaining the kids on school holidays. Visiting the rellies.

In fact, some of you are thinking about these things RIGHT NOW, aren’t you. Go on, admit it!

It’s so easy to lose our HEAVENLY focus/ because of the weight of EARTHLY PRESSURES.

And, in a sense, that’s what Zechariah did.

We’ve looked at his story over the last of weeks. He and Elizabeth are about to have their first child. And it’s a baby who’s part of God’s plans in a big way. Plans to do with that first Christmas. Plans that climax in Jesus.

But Zechariah couldn’t see all of that. He’d got the message that he was about to have a child. After years of trying and praying/ God chose NOW.

But Zechariah wasn’t convinced. There were too many things in the way. He was too old. Elizabeth was too barren. It was all just too unbelieveable.

“How can I be SURE I’m going to have a son?” he asked the angel Gabriel.

Too worried about his worn-out old body/ to trust God’s promise. Too EARTHLY focussed/ to see the HEAVENLY.

And because he doubted. Because he got God wrong. Because he didn’t RECOGNISE God behind it all. He was struck dumb for nine months.

He reminds me of the guy in the movie “Notting Hill”. A case of mistaken identity. Hugh Grant’s character meets the superstar actress played by Julia Roberts. He invites her to a family birthday dinner. And he introduces her to one of his no-hoper friends.

Of course, this guy doesn’t recognise her – the famous actress. He fails to see anything OUT OF THE ORDINARY. He misses the SPECIAL because he’s too busy looking at the EVERYDAY.

But he begins to make polite conversation. He asks her what she does. “I’m an actress,” she replies, with a funny look on her face. And so he starts to tell her about his OWN acting experiences.

He sympathises with her about the LACK OF MONEY in acting. The need to have a second job. But when she lets on that she makes MOVIES, he casually asks her how much she made for her last movie.

“Eight million dollars” she responds.

A glorious example of mistaken identity!

And while this poor guy TRIES HARD to make up for his mistake, it’s a bit hard to recover from a blunder like that!

But Zechariah DOES get that chance. The chance to make up for his mistake. He’s doubted God once before, and now’s his chance to make amends. To show everyone what he’s learned about God/ and the way he does things.

And he makes sure he keeps GOD at the CENTRE of the events of that first Christmas.

Look at v57. Elizabeth finally has her baby. After waiting for SO MANY YEARS. He finally comes. And everyone’s overjoyed.

Jenny Wise’s baby was only TEN DAYS overdue! And she was ecstatic! Imagine how everyone would have felt when Elizabeth had been waiting for DECADES!?

And for the whole pregnancy, Zechariah’s been struck dumb. Unable to say a word. Because he doubted GOD’S word. But now’s his big chance! The chance to put things right.

They ask him what to call the baby.

Now, the normal thing would be to call him Zechariah. After his Dad. But the angel had told him to call the baby John.

Will he make up for his mistake? Will he take God seriously?

He calls for the chalkboard. Verse 63. And everyone’s amazed when he writes, “John is his name” (Not “Call him John”, but “John IS his name – that’s it. It’s already been decided.) “I made the mistake of doubting God once. I’m not going to do it again.”

And straight away, he can talk again. And the first thing he does is praise God!

And everyone’s amazed! Look at v65.

(Luke 1:65-66 NIV)  The neighbors were all 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.

“Keep your eye on HIM,” they said. “This one’s destined for great things – what do you expect/ with a start like this? Angel visits, miraculous conceptions, and a man struck dumb. And then miraculously healed!

“What, then, is this child going to be?” That’s their question.

And so Zechariah answers them. “Well, let me tell you! Let me fill you in on what God’s got planned for this little guy.”

And from v68, Zechariah gives us the HEAVENLY perspective. How GOD sees Christmas. Without all the distractions that WE clog it up with.

He tells us about God. About mankind. And finally he tells us about John.

About God. About Us. About John

1. About God (v68-73)

Firstly, about God. In verses 68-73. It’s all to do with him RESCUING HIS PEOPLE.

And notice, this isn’t some ONE-OFF EVENT. A blip on the horizon. It’s the CULMINATION of God’s plans. The CLIMAX.

He’s promised it long ago. And now it’s coming to completion. The birth of Jesus is just around the corner. Look at v 68.

(Luke 1:68-73 NIV)  “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has REDEEMED HIS PEOPLE. {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 us– {72} TO SHOW MERCY to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, {73} the oath he swore to our father Abraham:

The people were right to expect big things of John. But not because there was anything significant about HIM. But because he was PART OF GOD’S SIGNIFICANT PLANS.

God’s plans are about SHOWING MERCY. By SAVING HIS PEOPLE. Because that’s what he PROMISED.

EXACTLY HOW God’s going to do that/ Zechariah gets onto in a minute. But for the moment/ the most important thing is that God’s SHOWING MERCY. By SAVING HIS PEOPLE. Because that’s what he PROMISED.

2. About US (74-75)

(pase) Secondly Zechariah talks about US. The ones God’s going to rescue. Look at v 74 and 75.

(Luke 1:74-75 NIV)  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.

God’s purpose in rescuing us/ is so we can SERVE him. It’s the same word as WORSHIP. Just like he rescued Israel from Egypt so they could worship him.

It’s actually what we were MADE for. We were DESIGNED to be friends with God.

But mostly, we just ignore him. Don’t even give him the time of day. And that’s what SIN is.

And God says that ignoring God will lead to an eternity without him.

But the amazing thing is/ that God actually WANTS to be friends with us.

And so he sends Jesus. He sets out to RESCUE us. To make us friends again. So we can SERVE him and WORSHIP him. Just the way we were designed.

And look at how that’s described. Three things. Without fear. In holiness and righteousness before him. All our days.

God’s aim in rescuing his people is that they might serve him without fear. In holiness and righteousness before him. All their days.

Firstly, our friendship with God is one WITHOUT FEAR.

Once we’re friends with God, nothing else can affect us. There’s no reason to be scared of anything. When you know YOUR FUTURE IS SECURE, sickness, or poverty, or pain, or even doesn’t really seem to matter anymore.

Bronwynne was telling me about the funeral she went to the other week. Of the Christian from William Clarke college who was killed in the windstorm. It was sad, but it was incredibly joyful. Because this knew where she was going. She loved Jesus, and couldn’t WAIT to get to heaven to be with him.

And now she’s serving him, without fear, in holiness and righteousness, all her days.

Secondly. God’s purpose in saving us is that we worship Him IN HOLINESS AND RIGHTEOUSNESS BEFORE HIM.

We’re RIGHT WITH GOD. There’s nothing standing in the way. No sin. No anger. No betrayal or broken trust. No long list of charges hanging over our head. The past is forgotten. No more dredging up old failures.

To worship him in righteousness means God has dealt with it all. Forgiven. Gone.

And we stand before him/ with a completely clean slate. Right before him. Righteous.

3. All our days

And the third part is that it’s for ALL OUR DAYS. Eternity. Forever. Not “I’ll save you until the next time you slip up. Then you’re out on your ear”

But forever.

God’s salvation is so that we can worship him without fear. In holiness and righteousness. All our days.

That’s a HEAVENLY perspective on Christmas. And it’s one worth keeping our eyes on/ rather than getting bogged down in trivial EARTHLY things.

3. About John

Thirdly. Zechariah moves onto JOHN HIMSELF. Verse 76 – “And YOU, my child” What part does John play in this heavenly drama?

He’s a PROPHET of the Most High. A prophet who’ll DECLARE A MESSAGE from God. Who’ll prepare the way for Jesus.

And look at what his message involves. Verse 77.

(Luke 1:77 NIV)  to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,

To give people THE KNOWLEDGE OF SALVATION. That’s the same salvation Zechariah’s been talking about before. God saving his people so that they can worship him. So they can be friends with him.

And John’s job is to give people a KNOWLEDGE of that plan.

And look at how that plan works. How this new friendship starts. It’s not by performing a list of jobs. Measuring up to a standard. Being good enough. In fact, there’s nothing mentioned to do with us AT ALL.

It’s through the FORGIVENESS OF OUR SINS. That’s GOD’S work! Why? Because we deserve it? No. Because of the TENDER MERCY OF OUR GOD.

The people’s question was, “What then is this child going to be?”

And Zechariah’s answer was, “He’s going to be the one who announces God’s amazing rescue plan. Who prepares for Jesus. The one who declares the forgiveness of sin. So that we can worship God without fear. In holiness and righteousness. All our days.

That’s big! That’s an awesome privilege for John to have.

And it’s OUR privilege as well.

To announce God’s amazing rescue plan in Jesus. To point people to him. To declare the forgiveness of sin. So that we can be friends with God forever.

It’s our PRIVILEGE to lift people’s gaze from the mundane. From the ORDINARY and the EARTHLY. And help them to focus on the HEAVENLY. To see that Christmas is FAR more important than shopping, or food, or presents, or holidays, or relatives. Or even peace on earth, or being nice to each other, or families getting back together.

The heavenly reality that Zechariah reminds us of is that God offers us salvation so that we can serve him. Without fear. In holiness and righteousness. All our days.

Praise God for Christmas! Praise God for Jesus!

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