Sermons

Summary: The beauty of the benedictus lies in its eloquent description of the salvation of the Messiah. Inverse 78 the tender mercy of God is behind the beautiful dawning of the new day.

One morning the 5-year-old son of a doctor overheard his father tell his mother "I don't know

when I will be home. I have been called out on a maternity case." A few minutes after his father left

the doorbell rang, and the little lad went to the door. "Is the doctor in," inquired the caller. "No sir,"

replied the boy. "Have you any idea when he will be back?" the man asked. "I don't know sir," the

boy answered, "He went out on an eternity case."

At first the boys mistake is only funny, and you see a bewildered caller convinced its hardly

worth waiting for a man on an eternity case. As you give the matter some thought, however, it has

profound implication. Maternity and eternity are not ill matched words infinitely separated in

significance. The story of Christmas and pre-Christmas events link these terms together intimately.

Dr. Luke is not sharing these birth stories and songs because of his interest in maternity only, but

because of his interest in eternity. The birth of Jesus and His forerunner John the Baptist are eternity

cases because the God of eternity has a direct involvement in these births. By means of them He will

open the gates of eternity to all people. Never were maternity and eternity most closely linked.

The birth of John the Baptist was the birth of one who would herald the coming dawn of a new

day, which would be made bright by the Son of Righteousness who, said Malachi, would rise with

healing in his wings. Malachi was the last of the Old Testament prophets. He predicted that a

messenger would go before the Messiah to prepare his way. Now after 400 years of silence this

prophecy is being fulfilled in the birth of John the Baptist. Some of the relatives following the rut of

family tradition are upset with Elizabeth over her insistence that the child's name be John. They

thought it only right to honor his father by naming his Zacharias. So they go to Zacharias assured

that he would back them up and put his wife in her place. To their shock he writes, "His name is

John, which means the grace of God, or the Lord is gracious." This was the name the angel gave

him, and in this act of obedience he is released from his 9 months of being imprisoned in silence, and

he breaks forth in a joyful song of salvation.

He has been silent but not blind. He saw the shining faces of Mary and Elizabeth as they sang

the praises of God. He saw the implication of what was happening, and he knew the dawn of a new

day of salvation was about to break, and he uses his first words to greet it with a song. The poet

wrote,

There's a light upon the mountain, and the day is at the spring

When our eyes shall see the beauty and the glory of the King.

Weary was our heart with waiting, and the night-watch seemed so long,

But his triumph-day is breaking, and we hale it with a song.

This was Dr. Henry Burton's description of how saints will greet the second coming of Christ.

Zacharias has the same mood as he greets the first coming. Nothing but song can begin to express

the emotions of men who are aware of the nearness of the Savior. Zacharias is glorious happy over

his son, and of the role he will play in preparing the way, but he devotes only 2 verses to that. He is

aware that this is more than a maternity case. It is an eternity case, and that is why the theme of his

song is salvation, and all else is secondary. This song is called the Benedictus from the first word in

the Latin version, which is blessed in the English. Like Mary's Magnificat, it has been a part of

Christian worship for centuries. St. Augustine back in the fourth century expressed how he loved it

and sang it daily.

"O blessed hymn of joy and praise! Divinely inspired by the Holy Ghost,

and divinely pronounced by the venerable priest, and daily sung in the church of God; Oh, may the

words be often in my mouth, and the sweetness of them always in my heart." In more recent times in

the Church of England the Benedictus was revived after years of neglect. In the Diary Of A Church

Goer, Lord Courtney describes the impression made on him by hearing the Benedictus sung in

church: "The choir to-day sang divinely the Benedictus....In my boyhood we rarely heard the

Benedictus. It was in the prayer book, doubtless, but practically never said or sung. Now days it is

reaccepted in use....nor is this surprising, for the Benedictus surely expressed the essence of all

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