Summary: Zechariah's praise reaches reminds us that God has provided an answer to the sorrows and evil that is in this world today. The answer is found in the reality that GOD HAS COME to us in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Where is God when tragedy strikes? On Thursday we learned of another devastating tragedy in one of our nation’s schools. Another massacre of innocent children by a crazed murderer - this time in Newtown Connecticut. Where is God when 20 children and 6 teachers are gunned down in an elementary school?
Where is God when 29 year old teacher Kaitlin Roig hid in a classroom bathroom with 14 children aged 6-7 years old?
Her story brought me to tears as I watched her tell her story to Diane Sawyer on an ABC News clip. The third grade teacher thought the children would be killed if they tried to escape outside or down the hall, so she tried to keep fourteen terrified children quiet as they hid in the classroom bathroom. Kaitlin wedged a storage unit in front of the door and didn’t come out until the police unlocked the door. Some of the children stood on the toilet so they could all fit in the small bathroom. Thankfully, Kaitlin and her children were safe and are scarred only by the horrors of that day and the knowledge that so many of their friends and teachers were senselessly killed. http://abcnews.go.com/US/newtown-teacher-refused-unlock-door-police-fearing-gunmans/story?id=17976299
If we say that “God was there keeping Kaitlin and her children safe,” then where was God when the 20 children in the other classrooms were killed by the shooter Adam Lanza?
Only someone who has experienced this kind of violence can begin to imagine what these grieving parents must be going through. The prayers of the entire country cry out for these grieving parents and the community of Newton. We pray for God’s comfort through their unimaginable sorrow.
But Newton was not the only place where sorrow could be found last week.
On Friday, Dec 15, 6 adults and 4 teens were shot in Chicago in a series of separate crimes.
In Philadelphia, 319 homicide deaths so far in 2012. Almost one per day.
In Syria, close to 40,000 have been killed in civil war.
In Thailand, Indonesia, and dozens of other countries, children are being sold as sex slaves to the highest bidder.
We were reminded of the depth of evil in our world when Adam Lanza opened fire in a small town elementary school. But if we think hard enough, suffering is all around us. It is in the home of Mary Kelley whose 52 year old son Bill died of a heart attack leaving behind a wife and 2 sons. It is the home of Loraine Fergonna whose son-in-law was just diagnosed with blood cancer.
IS GOD HERE?
Think back with me to the time of the Jewish people under Emperor Ceasar Agustus.
There was great disease. Life expectance was 50 for an infant male, 36 for an infant female. Most parents expected that at least on or more of their children would die of a childhood disease. Slavery, robbery and war were all part of the ancient world. It was a world of suffering and sorrow. The Jews lived under Roman authority, and while Rome kept the peace, rebellions were put down mercilessly.
Israel longed for her Messiah. Peace was an idea that eluded the Jewish people. Corruption was rampant. King Herod who sat on the throne in Jerusalem was an imposter - not even Jewish. He enslaved his own nation to build his elaborate monuments to himself.
And into this sad world, a message of hope was given.
That message is exalted in the praise given by an elderly priest whom God used as a part of the Christmas story. The priests name is Zechariah. Some translations name him Zacharias, but it’s the same name. He and his wife Elizabeth lived in the hills of Judea, possibly near Hebron. They were childless and prayed for a baby. That prayer was answered late in their lives when the angel Gabriel delivered the news that Elizabeth would give birth to a son who would be the forerunner of the Messiah.
Our passage in Luke 1:68-79 presents Zechariah’s praise at the birth of his son, the baby that would grow up to be John the Baptist. His praise represents the hope of all Israel, that the Messiah had finally come, that GOD HAS VISITED HIS PEOPLE. His praise reaches through the centuries to remind us that God has provided an answer to the sorrows and evil that is in this world today. The answer is found in the reality that GOD HAS COME to us in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I. Zechariah’s Praise - God Has Come!
There are two Parts to Zechariah’s Song of Praise. The first Section is contained in Luke 1:69-75. We know that this passage divides into two parts because each of the parts are one sentence in Greek. The first sentence addresses what GOD HAS DONE to secure salvation. The main point of this is found in v. 69 - “he has raised up a horn of salvation for us.”