Summary: An advent sermon about the life of John the Baptist and his parents as told from his Father Zechariah's perspective

Title: Zechariah - in the first person

Text: Luke 1:5-25 and 3:1-20

Big idea: “May our prayers rise to heaven like incense.”

It’s been 400 years since we have heard from a prophet. And as a result, things have been upside-down in our nation for far too long. We have long suffered under the corruption and incompetence of weak Kings – kings that turned our nation away from God. We have suffered under the brutality of the Assyrians and the Babylonians and now for the past 63 years we have been occupied and oppressed by the ruthless Romans. General Pompey conquered our holy land for Rome.

In 37, BC, following a failed rebellion, the Romans turned Judea into a Roman province, and installed the Jewish King Herod {the Great} as administrator. King was too lofty a title… he was more like a provincial premier.

Meanwhile, we held tightly to the promise of a deliverer – a Messiah – who will set us free from our oppressors and be a King like David, and sit on David’s throne. Establish a kingdom of righteousness and justice. Israel’s calling was to be a kingdom of priests who will serve God.

We know the words of Isaiah (unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given… and the government will be upon his shoulders and his kingdom will never end). We hold to the covenant God made with Abraham – I will bless you and make you a blessing... and through your seed, all the world will be blessed.

But there’s been a lot of waiting and hoping. Not much has been moving – except injustice and oppression – which seems to know no bounds.

Do you like your government?

Do you ever wish things could be better?

In Israel, we have had enough… somebody please give us a good government!!!

But I’m an old man.

I wonder if – in my lifetime – I will ever see things change. Will hope be realized?

Will the prophecies of our prophets ever be fulfilled?

My name is Zechariah. I’m a priest. A Jewish priest. And I’m old. All my life I’ve known only foreign rule. Oppression.

The Romans – I despise them.

Well, I wasn’t always old. I’ve just slowly gotten older and older and now here I am. I’m old. Maybe even ancient. My wife is named Elizabeth.

She, is not old.

O no. Elizabeth is most definitely not old. She is (let me get this just right – I learned this in marriage class)…“well along in years.”

That means she getting better and better as the years go by.

All my life I’ve been waiting and praying for three things.

(1) to serve in the temple as Priest.

(2) to be a Father.

(3) to see the Messiah.

For most of my life all 3 prayers seemed to go nowhere.

The dream of having children is something that Elizabeth and I had given up on. Getting old (the calendar) has punched a hole in that biological balloon. When we bought our first house in a small subdivision on the outskirts of Jerusalem we made sure there were a couple of extra bedrooms for the children. we prayed and prayed for God to bless us with children. our friends were so sweet when their children were born. “you will make such great parents.” But the children never came and the rooms stayed empty. Did God hear our prayers we wondered. Slowly, the dream died. But the pain and disappointment lingered - and grew.

As for serving at the temple – I great honor I must say – I kept hoping. And praying. But once again the years slipped by and I had become impatient and a little frustrated. After all, I’m a priest. My father was a priest. Serving at the Temple in Jerusalem is the highest honor a priest can have. A priest served at the temple for one week each year.

I was a member of one of 24 divisions in the priesthood, one of approximately 18,000 priests - of the 8th order, of Abijah . A priest only officiated at the sacrifice once in his lifetime, and was selected by lottery. In other words, you could be a priest all your life and never be called to serve in the Temple.

Finally, my name was called!!! (the answer to Prayer # 1 had arrived)

So, there I am in the temple – it’s our most holy place in all the world. I’m very feeling very excited and yet guarded in my excitement - so I don’t make a mistake. My job was to burn incense – symbolizing the prayers of God’s people rising toward heaven.

The altar of incense was made of acacia wood with a veneer of gold. Acacia is a beautiful hardwood that is almost indestructible. The altar was thirty-six (91 CM) inches high and eighteen inches (45) square. (Exodus 37:25ff). It served as a place for the daily burning of incense, both morning and evening.

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