Summary: #1 in Christmas series on fear. What was Zechariah afraid of? His life of quiet desperation.
Luke 1:5-25 – Christmas Time is Fear
Today we are beginning our Christmas series. We are looking, for the next 4 weeks, at the issue of fear. Four times in the Christmas story, someone is told, “Do not be afraid.” It makes me think that the Christmas song that says, “all is calm” might not have painted the whole picture.
I wonder how many of us are fearful this season. How many of us are afraid of what the future holds, or afraid of how we can go on? I’d like to open up today with a quote by E. Stanley Jones, a famous missionary of yesteryear. He said, “I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath—these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely—these are my native air.”
Now, we’re going to start with Zechariah. He was the father of John the Baptist. He was an old man, and he was married to an old woman. They had both been faithful to God for many years, and he had been a priest all his life. Let me tell you about the time he was afraid. Read Luke 1:5-25.
So the one day of his life that he got to offer incense, an angel showed up there, too. He would have been in awe of the privilege to offer the incense, but then an angel showed up and added to the excitement too.
Well, I must say that most times in the Bible, when a person knew that it was angel who was talking, the person was terrified. I don’t mean, “Oh, it was an angel and I had no idea.” I mean, knowing that the being talking to you is an angel – that brought fear.
Let me tell you a story about a small island in the South Seas inhabited by a group of people who had very little contact with the outside world. Theirs was a beautiful island – lush vegetation, wonderfully sweet-tasting fruit, and many domesticated animals good for eating. It was a tropical paradise.
But many others took advantage of the beauty. Over the years, many ships would land on the shores, unload its decks of pirates and thieves, and would fill its holds with plunder, looted from the island. Many beautiful island ladies found themselves stolen for pirates’ pleasures, many young children kidnapped to become pirates’ servants. Many animals, much fruit found their way uninvited to pirates’ galleys, leaving a terrorized people behind in the wake.
For many years this went on, until the islanders moved inland. Every set of sails on the horizon brought fear to the hearts of the natives, and they eventually moved their homes inland, away from thieving eyes.
Well, it turns out that the island was not an island – it was a dormant volcano, unknown to the natives. Seismologists from around the world picked up small tremors on their instruments, and discovered that the volcano would soon erupt. The volcano would send lava over the whole island, dooming everything there. Rumors had been heard years before of a hidden tribe of people on that island, and the scientists rushed to save the lives of the tribe.
Soon, a ship was sent to pick up the islanders and move them to a safe island. But when the ship arrived, they found no-one. The ship sailed away with no islanders on board.
Then a helicopter was sent. It flew over the island, but it too saw nothing, and flew off.
Each time a contact came from the outside world, it left empty-handed. Because, each time the islanders, very much alive and well, heard or saw something, they ran and hid in their well-concealed village. Years of visits from wicked outsiders brought such a terror into the hearts of the islanders, that they hid at even the peaceful outsiders.
And it’s sad, that even the messenger, meant to bring news that would save them, was still rejected due to fear. Such was the case with Zechariah. He was afraid of the messenger, the angel, bringing good news to him and to the rest of the world.
The good news brought fear to some. The mighty and powerful King Herod was so scared of the newborn baby king, that he ordered a mass execution of all baby boys in Bethlehem. It’s no wonder that Simeon said that Jesus would be “destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” It’s scary to think you might be replaced, at work or in a relationship. It’s scary to think you might fall. It’s scary to think that all your thoughts will someday be revealed.