How much of what we say is worth saying? I sometimes keep the TV on sports when I am not actively watching anything. The other day I decided to flip between channels to see which of the shows were the most interesting. After looking at three channels that were talking about exactly the same thing and following the same politically-correct line of discussion I decided that neither had anything of value for me. I turned off the TV and relished the silence.
In Chapter 1 of Luke there is an interesting story about John the Baptist. Zechariah, John the Baptist's father and husband of Elizabeth, has prayed about Elizabeth's barrenness. Gabriel appears to Zechariah in the temple and says, "Your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear a son and you will call him John." Zechariah does what I think many would do when we hear that God does impossible things ... he questions God. So Zechariah, along with the promised birth of a son, is given something else from the angel. Zechariah becomes unable to speak until John is born. On the 8th day after John the Baptist's birth John is taken to be circumcised. Elizabeth is asked the child's name and she says, "John," but the priests know that no one in the family has this name, so they question the choice (after all. Elizabeth is a woman). Zechariah asks for a tablet and writes down, "His name is John." Immediately Zechariah's voice is restored and he can speak. Many months of not being able to speak and what does he say? The Bible says he begins praising God.
Zechariah's joy is evident. He truly has something to talk about so he proclaims the second song from Luke 1. Zechariah's song is about two things. The first is direction. Zechariah is joyful because his son will have a life filled with divine direction and purpose. John will "be a prophet of the Most High." John will go before Jesus to tell people of His coming. John will proclaim that God's light has come, even in the midst of their darkness. As we light the pink candle of joy (Advent Wreath) we remember that both hope and peace have been brought to us in the person of Jesus. John will have clear marching orders to bring this message in a powerful way. When John the Baptist preaches and baptizes the Bible says that "all of Jerusalem" went out to see him. Jerusalem's population at that time was around 600,000 people. Now that's bigger than an Alabama game! I wonder how many would go out today?
The second message of Zechariah's song is about deliverance. Zechariah is brought out of silence into the joy of knowing that his son will tell about the deliverance of Israel and all people from sin through his cousin, Jesus. Zechariah sings, "He has come to His people and redeemed them" ... John will, "give his people the knowledge of salvation," and John will proclaim the "forgiveness of sins." Zechariah sings that God has remembered His holy covenant sworn to Abraham. And what did that covenant say? ... that "all the families on earth will be blessed through you (Abraham) [Genesis 12:3]."
Direction and deliverance ... wow, do we need those things now. For we are like sheep without a shepherd. We are beset with the wolves of fear, affluence, self, feelings-worship, entitlement, business, poor leaders and idols. "Lord ... we need you now more than ever! Set us on Your path of light. Send us Your message of salvation in the person of that baby named Jesus. Let us receive (not just talk about) God with us. Let your joy fill us with praise. For this Christmas we have something to talk about! AMEN!" Randy