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Title: Zechariah’s Song
Text: Luke 1.5-25; 57-79
Introduction: I love Christmas. I really do. I haven’t always loved Christmas – for many reasons of which I will not unload at this point. But, that has changed for me. And I’ll credit Lisa for the change. The Challenge for the pastor at Christmas is presenting something new from the same stories you’ve heard about your whole life. But here is the problem. The story is the same. So, who does a pastor tell the same stories year after year without losing that freshness? The answer I find is this: simply retelling the story.
Lisa and I are reading “The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent” by John Piper. This activity is just one example of what Lisa has done in building traditions for us that means so much to me. As we began the readings, Piper made a statement in the preface of his book and I wanted to share his quote with you as I begin this new Sermon Series for Christmas: The Songs of Christmas: Brand-new truths are probably not truths. What we need are reminders about the greatness of the old truths. We need someone to say an old truth in a fresh way. Or sometimes, just to say it.
That’s my goal this season: to present the story of Christmas with freshness and excitement by simply retelling the story. The idea of the Christmas songs came from Duffey. I don’t want you to think I came up with this myself. When we began looking at last year’s Christmas sermon series (which I had already planned out), Duffey shared with me that his pastor at his previous church had preached on the songs of Christmas. I already had my sermon series planned and so that is what we presented. But, I wanted to look closer at this idea of Christmas Songs from the Bible. I thought it was a great idea. And what we start today is the culmination of that journey.
Our songs from the book of Luke will follow our Advent Candles:
- Zechariah’s Song (which is really the 2nd song, but this story begins our journey, so we’ll start with it)
- Mary’s Song
- The Angels’ Song
- Simeon’s Song
- Anna’s Song (which isn’t recorded)
Now, if you follow the text through Luke, you’ll note that Mary’s song actually appears before Zechariah’s; however, Zechariah’s story is in the text first, because John, the Baptizer was born about 6 months before Jesus. So, that is why I’ve chosen his story first.
The text itself is broken into three different sections, with Mary’s story in the middle. Zechariah’s song is born out of an experience with
- His Service
- His Suffering
- His Son
Let’s look first at his Service
I. Zechariah’s Service (5-20)
exp.: rd v5-8 is the introduction to this couple; in v 8-10, we see how he comes into his service; rd v 8-10; you know this is special because he was twice chosen! First, he was chosen from his division and 2nd, he was chosen to enter into the Holy Place during his service. It is during this routine service that an angel from the Lord appears to him and interrupts his service.
Let me give you a great application before we even dig deeper into this experience: You should be praying for something like this in your life – that God will interrupt you in the midst of your service to him. Service can become routine. You learn what you’re supposed to do. You practice what you’ve learned as you do it and before you know it, there is no passion – there is no enthusiasm. You’re just simply walking through the motions of your service to the Most High God.
Oh, God, please interrupt my service! Let me have a fresh encounter with you.
This interruption brings a message – Gabriel’s message: rd v 11-13: Your prayer has been answered; Elizabeth will have a son and you will call his name John. Now he says, let me tell you a little bit about this son of yours, John.
- John’s impact (the impact he will have): rd v 14
- You will have joy and gladness!
- Many will rejoice at his birth (they do in v 58)
- John’s life (what his life will be like): rd v 15
- He will be great (no one will be considered greater according to Jesus in Luke 7.28: I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John).
- He will be filled with the Holy Spirit
- John’s ministry (the work he will accomplish): rd v 16-17
- Turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.
- Be accomplished in the spirit and power of Elijah (Malachi)
- Turn the hearts of the fathers to the children
- Turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the just
- And make ready for the Lord a people prepared.
exp.: there it is, all spelled out for you. This is all pretty miraculous. The fact that there is an angel here is pretty miraculous. There is only one problem: Zechariah doesn’t believe him; this is evident from his response; rd v 18; How shall I know this is a basic declaration of unbelief. What you’re saying is pretty unbelievable. So, give me a sign. Show me something that will let me know. He wants to know because, from the physical side of life, things look pretty impossible. First, he’s an old man and 2nd, his wife is advanced in years. Evidently, that means she is past the childbearing years.
app.: Here is another great application for us. Zechariah is asking for signs because he doesn’t believe. So: be very careful what you ask God for! Especially when you’re asking God to do something because you don’t believe him. Disbelief is sin. Hebrews 11.6 – for without faith it is impossible to please God…
I’m not talking about doubt or confusion or struggle. I’m talking about an unbelieving heart. Faithlessness. So, the angel sets him straight. First, he gives Zechariah his name: I am Gabriel. Zechariah should have thought of the book of Daniel. Gabriel appears twice in that book. Any priest worth is weight in drachmas should know this. Gabriel is connected with the Messiah. Then, added to the weight of his name is his position (19): I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. V 20 communicates his unbelief to us: rd v 20; silent and unable to speak because you did not believe.
t.s.: And that is just what happens; which brings me to the second experience in this story:
II. Zechariah’s Suffering (21-66)
exp.: rd v 21; can I add another application for us from this story? Our sin affects others around us. That is no new truth – to mention Piper again. But it is what happens here. He’s delayed and so they are left wondering what is up. This is odd to the people because this is a daily routine. They’ve experienced this before, many times. The priest goes in and does his thing and then he comes out. But this time he is delayed. So they’re left standing out there. 2ndly, when he does come out. He can’t speak. When I first thought of this 2nd point, I thought I should call it Zechariah’s Silence. But after working on it through the week, I think it is more than just living in a silent world. There has to be frustration and struggle. And, that is just what we see in the next v; rd v 22; He wants to tell them, but he can’t; rd v 23; and so he silently heads home. Rd v 24 – it’s all coming true.
Now the next so many verses turn our attention to Mary. I don’t want to look at her story just yet – we’ll do that next week. For now, let’s skip down to v 39 and resume our story with Zechariah; Gabriel has told Mary that she is going to have a baby. And, added to this joy – if I can call it that – her much older cousin, Elizabeth, is going to have a baby, too. Indeed, she’s already 6 months pregnant (v 36). So Mary goes to see Elizabeth. We pick up in v 39; rd 39-41; There is something supernatural going on here; I’ve never experienced this myself, but I’m sure there are mamas all over this worship center who could try to describe for us men what it is like to have a baby leap in the womb. But that is what makes this story so real to us. We read and we know this experience – either as a woman who has had a baby or a man who has watched his wife’s stomach move.
app.: Something wonderful happens all in this moment – but Zechariah isn’t a part of it. He misses out: the baby leaps and the Holy Spirit of God fills Elizabeth and she sings her own song. Rd 41b-45; Now, I wonder if this adds to Zechariah’s suffering – you know, because he’s not a part of this celebration. You see, he isn’t involved in this part of the story. Did he just sit by and watch, unable to say anything? Sometimes, when women get together, that is a byproduct of their getting together (men aren’t included). Sometimes, men just aren’t welcome. And that’s ok. But maybe, just maybe, he didn’t participate because he couldn’t. He could only look on from the outside. He was left alone with his thoughts.
t.s.: Well, the day comes for his wife to give birth to a son and we pick up down in v 57…
III. Zechariah’s Son (57-79)
exp.: rd 57-58; here is the fulfillment from the prophecy in v 14; let’s keep reading; rd v 59-63; John, that isn’t a family name. Isn’t his good to know that even back then people criticized what you were naming your baby! John? John ain’t no family name. Why would you pick John? Let’s intervene and help this poor kid out before his mama names him something funny. Don’t you just love v 62 – They made signs to the father. Like, because he’s mute, he’s also deaf! Can you see them talking louder and making gestures? But he asked for an etch-a-sketch! And he wrote – John is his name. Boom! Rd v 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God! The moment he wrote out that John was to be called John, he was expressing his belief in what the Angel said. Boy, here is another moment where we can identify a Truth – not a new truth mind you – just a reminder: Faith is action. Zechariah expresses his faith in writing out on the tablet. And a song was born! You see it down in v 67 and following: Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit – as was Elizabeth, remember? Zechariah filled with the Holy Spirit praised God! rd v 68-75
app.: That’s Zechariah’s song – born out of his service to the Lord as his priest, born out of the suffering he experienced in silence over the months, and born out of his experience in watching God do just what he said he would do – give him a son.
Conclusion: And his son? His son is going to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. Rd 75-79
We often think of the Christmas stories from a very positive perspective – and rightfully so. But I wonder if we seriously take to heart that these stories are real life. Each story is taken in a positive light and often times can feel more like a fairy tale than practical history. I say ‘practical’ because these stories are given for us. Zechariah’s Song was born out of his real-life experience. Born out of his practical service to the Lord through his work and service in the Temple. Do you serve the Lord in and through your local church? There is something here for you!
Zechariah’s Song was born out of his suffering: a real, physical ailment. He couldn’t speak! His communication was stifled.
ill.: This week I was visiting with a member in his hospital room. The nurse asked him if he was in pain. He said: I am always in pain. This man lives with chronic pain. After 101 years, his body aches constantly. Pray for Tom. What about you? Are you living with pain or sickness or some other type of struggle? This story has something here for you, too!
Zechariah’s Song was born out of God’s work in his life. Zechariah saw with his own eyes how God fulfilled his promises. There is this tie or bridge from Daniel to here through the angel, Gabriel. What about you? Do you have an unbelieving heart toward the things of God? Are you so earthly minded that you struggle with how God is going to accomplish his work because physically it just all appears impossible? Logistically, you can’t map it out? Maybe you’re in the midst of it all? Zechariah didn’t believe it when it was happening to him. Will you be found full of faith when God moves in your life in an impossible way?
Application: review – let me challenge you to:
- Pray for God to interrupt your routine and make things fresh!
- Pray that God will guide your prayers. You don’t want to ask for foolish things. And you don’t want to have a disbelieving heart. Here is a simple practice: pray the Bible. Think about it – everything in this text is already somewhere else in God’s Word.
- Pray for God to keep you in his will. Your disobedience has an impact on the lives around you. For John, it also kept him on of some pretty cool happenings as God was fulfilling his purpose in Elizabeth and Mary’s lives. Pray for a strong faith.