Friday, December 24, 2010

The Promise of His Coming (24)

The parents of young babies are always waiting to hear what the baby's first words will be. There's excitement when the child speaks for the first time, and they move from baby noises to sounds, then words, then an increasing vocabulary. It's been said that parents spend a year or two teaching a child to speak, and the next eighteen years trying to shut them up again!

First words are important - but what if a grown adult hasn't spoken for a while? Relatives of patients in a coma are desperate for their loved one to speak, to say a word, to be able to communicate.

Our next Christmas song comes from the mouth of the priest, Zechariah. He hadn't spoken for nine months, but it wasn't because he was in a coma. Rather, he had disbelieved the message an angel brought to him that his elderly wife would bear a son, who would be the one who would come in the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. The angel struck him dumb, until all would be fulfilled.

The child has been born now, and on its eighth day had to be named and circumcised. Family members wanted the child to be called Zechariah, after his father, but both Elizabeth and then Zechariah insisted that his name was John. It is only then that Zechariah's silence is broken, and his first words in over nine months are this outburst of praise to God, as he is moved by the Spirit:

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
(Luke 1:68-69)

This horn isn't a trumpet - it's the symbol of strength, just as some animals have horns. This strength of salvation has been raised up in the house of David - the Lord visiting and redeeming his people in the birth of the Lord Jesus. As Zechariah makes clear, this salvation is 'in the forgiveness of their sins' (77). And once again, we see that God is keeping his promises from long ago:

70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71 that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

We see the purpose of God's salvation here as well - we are saved to serve. Serving God 'in holiness and righteousness before him', without fear because God is for us and not against us as we are found saved in Christ. O horn of salvation, come.

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