Advent Midweek 1: "Zechariah's Song"
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
December 4, 2013
Central Passage
Luke 1:67-80
The Songs of Luke 1

*This sermon was first preached by the Reverend Hans Fiene of River of Life Lutheran Church, Channahon, IL.


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

Zechariah wouldn't cut it as a parent today.  In 21st century America, Zechariah would be profoundly out of place in a culture that raises children to believe that the primary reason for their existence is to build up their own glory instead of the glory of God.

So people teach their children to be selfish and prideful.  They teach their children to believe that what matters most in life is their own specialness and happiness and success.  And in particular, when parents discover that their children possess certain gifts or talents, they teach those children that these things should be the focus of their entire lives, often times at the expense of everyone and everything around them.  If a star high school quarterback wanted to quit the team to let his backup have a shot, his parents would do everything they could to talk him out of this crazy idea.  And if the same high school's valedictorian decided to forego college to feed the hungry throughout the world, her parents would very quickly sit her down and explain to her that, while that's a very nice idea, she should really get her own life established before she starts worrying too much about other people's problems.  Zechariah wouldn't fit well in this world that says you should decrease so that someone else should increase.

And sadly, Zechariah wouldn't fit much better among those parents who call themselves Christians because we so often find ourselves teaching our children that Christ should be the center of their lives, unless, of course, Christ gets in the way of something they want to do or be.  So we bring our children to church except for when they have games or recitals or some other event where they can put their talents on display for the world to see.  We teach our children to talk to people about Jesus except when it might make it harder for them to get a good grade or job.  We teach our children to believe what the Bible says, unless it tells them to stop doing the kind of things that have made them so successful or are otherwise seemingly fun and harmless.  And of course, the reason we teach our children these things is because this is what we believe.  We raise our children to be carbon-copies of ourselves, people who believe that God is great unless He gets in our way.

But as we see in our reading for tonight, this is not what Zechariah taught his son John the Baptist.  Which is pretty amazing when you consider the circumstances of John’s birth.  So Zechariah finds out about his son’s upcoming birth from an angel, an angel who tells him that his old wife is going to have a son, just like how Sarah gave birth to Isaac in her old age.  And this angel tells Zechariah that his son is going to a prophet like Elijah, tells this to a man whose people haven’t seen a prophet in 300 years.  So, let’s face it, I’m sure your honor student is great.  I think it’s swell that your kid is good at soccer or singing or dancing.  But your kid is pretty lame in comparison to John the Baptist.  When you look at everything going on, Zechariah should have a much harder time than we do telling his kids that they are nothing and that Christ is everything.

And yet, that’s exactly what he teaches John.  So when his son has been born, all these people are gathered around trying to figure out what all this miraculous stuff surrounding John means.  They want to know what kind of amazing future this son of Zechariah has in store for him.  And yet, it’s in this moment that Zechariah starts talking.  And when he does, he doesn’t start off talking about his son John.  He starts off talking about Jesus, someone else. Already John is decreasing that Jesus would increase.

Zechariah speaks of the redemption that Jesus is going to win with his blood.  He speaks of Jesus as the horn of salvation from the house of David, the one who is going to rule from David’s throne forever in peace and mercy.  Zechariah doesn’t begin by praising his son, but by praising the son of his wife’s cousin, this little child still in Mary’s womb.  He praises her son as the one who is going to deliver his people from their enemies, from sin, death, and the devil.  And then he goes on to tell his son John that his job will be to prepare the way for this Savior, that his goal in life will be to get people ready to receive the love of God that Jesus is going to bring.

And Jesus brought us that salvation.  Walking the road that John the Baptist prepared, Jesus reached out to us and grabbed all those sins that earned our condemnation, all that pride that had us loving ourselves and our money and our accomplishments instead of loving God and our neighbor.  Jesus took those sins and he drowned them in our blood, erased them, forgave them.  Walking that path prepared by Zechariah’s son, Jesus led a perfect life without sin so that when he died and rose again, he could welcome us into his kingdom, so that he could bring us by his side as he ruled from David’s throne forever. Walking that path, Jesus cast out demons and raised the dead en route, crushing the devil’s serpentine head beneath his foot all the way to and especially as He hung upon the cross.  On this path, Jesus forgave your sins, triumphed over your enemies, and gave you the gift of everlasting life.  On this path, Jesus took people who were unfaithful parents who raised our children to be selfish and prideful and He made us into faithful parents who looked much more like faithful Zechariah.  And even more so, on this path prepared by Zechariah’s son, Jesus took us, He took people who were sinful, idolatrous children of the world and He made us into the holy, beloved children of God.

+ In Nomine Iesu +