Advent: Zachariah's Song (Luke 1:67-79)
because he has come and has redeemed his people.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace."
I love this set of verses, because these are the words Zachariah spoke after being unable to speak for nine months as he waited for the birth of his son John(Luke 1). Some beautiful poetry made in all of that silence and waiting, some understanding and wisdom and trust in these words. I wonder if Zechariah's initial laughter in reaction to God's promise that he would have a son is because of fear and unbelief. I mean it makes no sense; Elizabeth is barren, and he is old. The world doesn't work that way, right?
It is similar to the story of Sarah & Abraham, who both laughed at separate times when told they would have a son in their old age. But God says to Abraham because he knows Sarah has laughed in disbelief (and subsequently denied it like a little kid):
"Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:13-15)
Here's the scene, but the time from when God promised Abraham he would make him into a great nation to the time that Sarah conceives is something like 25 years (Genesis 12:18, Genesis 21:1-6). Way to make them wait on the fulfillment of the promise, huh? So when the baby is finally born, they name him Issac, which means "he laughs."
Likewise, Zachariah and Elizabeth are past their prime, to say the least, and God chooses to make a promise to them, use them as vessels, and surprise everybody around so that it was clear he was the one who did this thing so that the way would be prepared for his Son's coming (which is another bizarre story: God in the form of an infant, born to a young virgin in a time of political turmoil). What on earth? Why this way, why these circumstances? It is everything seemingly preposterous and impossible to us.
I see it happen in my own life and in the lives of others. The whole redemption story is about battles with ridiculous odds; battles won by confusion and trumpets & water jugs, marching and yelling to overcome a city (Joshua 1--yet again--do not fear), army generals holding up their arms as the magic potion for the army to succeed for goodness sake. You get the picture. God's "senseless" methods are really for our benefit. Using tiny armies, wastelands, deserts, impossible situations, barrenness, lack & slavery, intentionally choosing the flawed, the scoundrels and manipulators (David, Jacob, Peter, to name a few) he shows us who is actually fighting the battle, who the power belongs to, who is King.
In the meantime, we gasp in fear, we laugh in disbelief. And then suddenly, we are surprised. God, what is this thing you've done for us?!?! We know that the victory (the baby, the miracle, the healing, the manna, the oil & flour, the forgiveness, the mercy, the salvation) is not from us. We didn't even have the faith to believe it could be done, yet what he promises, he fulfills.
As Zechariah said, God's method is for a purpose: "to enable us to serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days;" and "to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God."
We walk away shaking our heads and laughing in awe and love rather than disbelief and fear, thinking, indeed: "Is anything too hard for the Lord? "
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Come, Lord Jesus.