Summary: Christmas is about praising God and proclaiming that the Savior has come at last.
Title: Zechariah’s Song
Text: Luke 1:67-79
Truth: Christmas is about praising God and proclaiming that the Savior has come at last.
Aim: To follow John’s example to use Christmas to point people to Jesus.
Life ?: How does John’s example point people to Jesus?
Isaac Watts was a genius. At 4 years of age, he had learned Latin, at 9 Greek, at 11 French, and at 13 years old Hebrew. His poetic re-working of the Psalms was magnificent. Unfortunately for poor Isaac, he was not a looker. His one chance at love came and went with a young lady named Elizabeth Singer, who actually fell in love with Watts sight-unseen through his published poems. Elizabeth was so taken with this man, who could write so deeply and passionately, that she threw caution to the wind and in a letter asked him to marry her.
But when they finally met, she retracted her offer. She later wrote that Isaac Watts was “only five feet tall, with a shallow face, hooked nose, prominent cheek bones, small eyes, and deathlike color…I admired the jewel but not the casket that contained it.”
Isaac never married, but he spent his single life focused on the glory of God. In 1719, Watts published his poetic work based on Psalm 98 that would go on to become what many consider the greatest Christmas hymn of all time: “Joy to the World.” (Lloyd Stilley, Lifeway)
Great music has always been associated with Christmas. We’re familiar with the story of Christmas: the angels, the shepherds, the virgin and the baby. But are we familiar with the biblical songs of Christmas? The events of Christmas are so stupendous that it results in an outburst of singing that describes the impact this child will have on the world of sinners.
Songs come and go; but there are four songs of Christmas that have endured for 2,000 years. Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, composed the first song on our Christmas play list. In Latin the song is named “Benedictus” after the first word in the song. The text is found in Luke 1:67-80.
The setting of this jewel will cause us to marvel at its beauty. In v. 5, we are told that Zechariah was a priest who married a daughter of a priest. This was considered a rare and wonderful circumstance for a priest. They were both exceptionally devoted to God. You can imagine the wonderful future many anticipated for this good and godly couple. I’m sure the wedding toast included a blessing for them to have many children, and may one of those sons be the promised Messiah sent to set God’s people free.
That was the dream of all newlyweds in Israel. Every Jewish bride was taught to have a large family because the next son might be Messiah, the heaven-sent Deliverer of Israel. If there was any couple that seemed qualified to be human instruments of that promise, it was Zechariah and Elizabeth.
Verse seven states the facts plain and without emotion, but make no mistake it is filled with pain. They had no children because Elizabeth was barren. If you can think of a cultural and family issue that our society interprets as God having forgotten you or even punishing you, then you will know something of how Zechariah and Elizabeth felt. If you’ve ever longed for something but had your desire become despair and your despair become hopelessness and your hopelessness become reluctant acceptance, then you know what went on in this couples heart.
A great privilege comes to this card-carrying member of the AARP. He is selected for temple duty. There were so many priests that they drew lots to determine who got to serve on temple duty. Zechariah not only got temple duty, but he was assigned to offer incense, which was an once-in-a-lifetime privilege. If you were selected then your name was removed from future contention so that others would have the privilege. He offered this incense in front of the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies, and that was just once a year. The Jewish tradition described the priest who gets to offer this incense as “rich and holy” for the rest of his life.
It is here that Zechariah encounters the angel and the news that his old wife will conceive. She will give birth to the forerunner of the Messiah. Even though the angel has come directly from the presence of God, and there are several biblical precedents for aged women giving birth to son’s, Zechariah doubts God can do this. The angel assures him it will happen and as a sign to prove this miracle, Zechariah will not be able to speak until the boy is born. It would be better for Zechariah to say nothing than to give a false message about God’s plan of salvation.