Summary: True freedom to speak is the freedom to speak freely of God and His great plan Zachariah a - Christmas series message
Intro: Letters that children wrote to Santa Claus. "Dear Santa, you did not bring me anything good last year. You did not bring me anything good the year before that. This is your last chance. Signed, Alfred."
One went like this: "Dear Santa, there are three little boys who live at our house. There is Jeffrey; he is 2. There is David; he is 4. And there is Norman; he is 7. Jeffrey is good some of the time. David is good some of the time. But Norman is good all of the time. I am Norman."
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. You’ve heard the song. You can’t avoid it if you get out at all right now. The point of it seems to be that it’s not yet quite Christmas, and everywhere you go you can see evidences that Christmas is fast approaching. And that’s supposed to make you happy or drive you crazy or something. Look around. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
The evidences that we’re getting ready to celebrate Jesus’ birth are all around. You can tell it by the nativity scenes and the billboards that wish you a “Happy Holiday.” Wait, most of those forget to make Jesus the focus. Maybe you can tell it by the selflessness and good cheer of retailers. Wait, that’s not what they’re after! Maybe you can tell it by our prayers: “Dear Santa, I mean, Jesus, here is a list of the things I want this year…
Hold it! What should we look and sound like before Christmas? And exactly what should our prayers before Christmas be? We have a great one to consider this morning.
One of the evidences that Jesus’ birth was approaching is contained in the last words of the OT. For 400 yrs, God doesn’t speak to His people. Right before that temporary sign-off, here’s what He says:
"See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse."
The gospel of Luke opens with Zechariah in the middle of the scene. He’s a righteous man. He keeps God’s commands. His name may be translated either Zechariah or Zacharias – same guy. Imagine being Zechariah, priest of God. Your entire life, you’ve waited for the day when it would be your turn to go into the holy place and burn incense on the altar of incense. It was a once in a lifetime event. You’d want it to go perfect, so you’d be very careful about getting everything just right. Only, when you turn around, there next to the altar stands a man – an angel.
It’s Gabriel, and he has news. He tells Zechariah that God has heard his prayer. He’s going to finally have a child, even though he and his wife are past the age for bearing children. He goes on to describe the child in vv14-17 –
…many will rejoice because of his birth,…for he will be great in the sight of the Lord…he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth…Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God.
In an ideal world, Zechariah’s response would have been more like Mary’s that we looked at last week. Instead, he wrongly questions the news. Gabriel reminds Zechariah that he’s an angel, that he stands in the presence of God. For his skepticism, Zechariah will be unable to speak for one whole pregnancy. From that moment on, he can’t say a word.
So, a baby boy is born, and on the 8th day, when they officially name him, Zechariah writes on a tablet “His name is John,” and suddenly, he can speak again.
Now, you’ve seen an angel. Your son, the miracle boy, was just born. All during the 9-month pregnancy, you didn’t speak a word. Suddenly you’re able to speak?
What do you say?
Zechariah was immediately filled with the HS and he burst into a prophetic prayer. This prayer is commonly referred to as the Benedictus from the Latin word that means “blessed.” Now, there are ways to pray that seem especially suited to certain times. This is no exception.
Do you realize what it is? It’s 6 months before Jesus’ birth. What we’re looking at here this morning is a great pre-Christmas prayer, offered by a righteous man who hasn’t been able to speak for 9 months. What should he say? Or, better yet, what should we say in this pre-Christmas time that we’re in right now? It seems like that has been a struggle especially this year.