Summary: God himself laid the foundation for Jesus' ministry through the work of John the Baptist. Our life will be a waste if we don't build on God's foundation.
Well, are you all ready for Christmas? Shopping done? Wrapping done? Tree up? Decorating done? Christmas cards done? Cooking done? Me, neither. Feel exhausted just thinking about it?
All those jobs that are part of preparing for Christmas can make December a very hectic month. And there is another kind of preparation that is also needed, a kind of preparation that all too easily gets squeezed out in the Christmas rush, a kind of preparation that is much more important in the long run. And that’s a spiritual preparation
When it comes to preparing people for the birth of Jesus, the all-time expert is John the Baptist. Right before Jesus appeared on the scene in Israel to begin his public ministry, John the Baptist had the job of getting the people ready, stirring up expectations. Today you might say he was the warm-up act for a band, although his preparations were much more than just getting a crowd excited.
This morning we are not really going to talk about John the Baptist’s ministry. But when John was just 8 days old, his father, Zechariah, was inspired by the Holy Spirit and made a powerful speech about what God was doing in the birth of Jesus. And I want to look at that speech this morning to help us understand the wonder of what God did for us centuries ago so that we can make our most important preparations.
Our text for this morning is Luke 1:67-79, and that’s on page 58 of the New Testament section of your pew Bible. I’ll invite you to have it open in front of you so that you can refer to it as I talk.
67 Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:
68 "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a mighty savior for us
in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
72 Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor, Abraham,
to grant us 74 that we, being rescued from our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
78 By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace."
The text begins with God’s preparations for Christmas. What we are going to be celebrating is much more than one nice day, with fancy foods and presents and family time together. We are going to be celebrating is God’s gift of salvation and the presence of His Spirit to bring peace and love and justice to this world. And if God laid this as the foundation, we won’t get very far at all if we try to build something that doesn’t fit in with the start that God made. The foundation is all his. If we try to build something on top of it that doesn’t fit the foundation, it just won’t be very durable.
In the five verses, 68 through 73, Zechariah tells us wonderful things that God had already done. Any one of them could be a sermon by itself. In verse 68, we read that God has looked favorably on his people. Do you know people who have no sense at all that God looks at them favorably? Is it hard to believe that yourself sometimes? This is good news for our world! An awful lot of people have trouble even seeing that God is out there at all, let alone looking at us favorably. But when you know and can feel it in your heart that God is on your side, rooting for you, all the ups and downs of life are much easier to bear. This may be a time to just sit and let God speak his love to your heart. Read his love letter, the Bible. It is always the time to experience God’s favor for yourself. God loves his people. He looks at us with favor.
And still in verse 68, God has redeemed his people. Redemption is what you need when you are stuck. In the Old Testament the word would be used if somebody had lost the farm to the bankers and they needed a whole bunch of money fast to get it back, to redeem it.