Summary: We have a saviour who is ready to help us - this is the story to tell at Christmas
Luke 1:57-80 – Christmas, a time to proclaim that Salvation has come
It was early one evening in the 1930’s when some elephant handlers in Burma heard the screams. They knew immediately that something was wrong. Running toward the sound they came to the banks of the River. They looked down from the top of the steep riverbanks to see one of their work elephants, Ma Shwe caught in the middle of a river which was rapidly rising in flood. The screams were coming from Ma Shwe’s calf. Ma Shwe could still touch the bottom, and with her feet firmly planted in the mud she used her trunk to hold her calf against her side. Each time the terrified calf started to float away Ma Shwe would reach out with her trunk and pull it back.
The elephant handlers watched helplessly from the side of the river as the waters rose. Ma Swhe could not hold her footing. Her calf was swept away. Ma Shwe plunged downstream and 50 metres later caught up with her calf. She pinned her calf against the steep riverbank with her head, then in a mighty effort, lifted it in her trunk, reared up on her hind legs, and placed it on a rocky ledge a metre and a half above the water. With her calf safe for the moment Ma Shwe fell back into the torrent and disappeared downstream.
The elephant handlers turned their attention to the calf. They felt helpless as they watched it shivering on a narrow ledge 2.5 metres below them. For half an hour they stood there wondering how they could rescue the calf when all of a sudden they heard the grandest sound of a mother’s love – Ma Shwe was back, with a defiant roar calling comfort to her calf. Ma Shwe had crossed the river, managed to climb up the bank, and was charging back upstream to find her calf.
When she heard her mother’s roar the calf’s ears cocked forward, listening intently. And then the calf finally saw what all the roaring had foretold. Ma Shwe appeared from the bush on the other side of the river. Her call changed from a roar to the rumble elephants make when they are pleased. There Ma Shwe stood watch over her calf, watched throughout the night as the floodwaters rose then subsided. When they had gone down far enough Ma Shwe crossed the river, lifted her calf down and took it to safety.
In times of trouble, we all need a strong and mighty savior, who is able to hold us close among life’s buffeting and lift us to a place of safety and rest.
Christmas time, is a time we need to proclaim that our Salvation has come – One who is even more powerful than a concerned mother elephant has come to save us. Jesus is our powerful savior who not just is able to save us from physical danger, but also from spiritual danger as well. Too often, we get distracted from the real meaning of Christmas and get caught up in all the hype and all the gifts and the food. We forget that Christmas is all about the salvation which God is offering to us, and to those around us.
Tonight, I want to continue our walk through Luke’s Gospel and pause to look at John the Baptist’s birth and the song of Praise that Zechariah offers as a result. Unlike Ma Shwe’s calf, his cry was not one of distress, but of absolute praise and thanksgiving for what God had done and for what God was about to do. For those who were with us last week, here is another one who learned to praise God for future events. While we are on that topic, how did you go this last week, were you able to begin to praise God for what he would do in the future – are you stretching your faith to look ahead rather than behind?
Before we look at this savior that has come, let’s pause and pray Pray …
The Birth of Who?
If you have your bibles, please open them up to Luke 1:57. We read that passage earlier in the service, so I’m not going to read it all through again, but please follow along as I’ll be constantly referring back to it.
Luke continues his recollections of the events of that first Christmas, by saying (vs 57) that When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. The Promised Baby was born … And there was great rejoicing. The long anticipated son had arrived and 8 days later as was the custom instituted in Gen 17:9-14 he was circumcised. It was customary also for the child to be named at this time following the example of Abram and Sarai whose names were changed when Abram was circumcised. So … The Promised Baby was named … but here is where we find a bit of consternation arising. It was tradition for the child, particularly the first male child to be named after his Dad. Surely this little guy would be called Zech Jnr. But Elizabeth had different Ideas. She insisted (vs 60) - No! He is to be called John – Which meant “to show favour”. Who? John? But why Elizabeth? There is no one in your family with that name. You must have a bit of sun stroke – surely you mean his name will be Zechariah, her friends and relatives argued.