Thank you to Richard for this message

LUKE 1: 67-80


Please read Luke 1: 67-80 but just before that – let’s pray:

Dear Lord God our loving heavenly Father, we thank you so much for your word, the Bible, and you the Holy Spirit who inspired St Luke to write the passage we are about to read. And we now ask you Holy Spirit that you come now and apply this passage to our hearts, that this written word, by the spoken word would now become to us the living Word, and we would encounter our Lord Jesus and we pray this in his lovely name, Amen.

So picture the scene. Eight days after the birth of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s baby – they meet with friends, families and neighbours where the child is circumcised (in accordance with their customs) and also named.

Now in that culture, typically the expectation would be that the child would be given a family name and if this baby was given his father’s name that would give some indication of what he would do once grown up; he may follow his father’s footsteps. In other words: like father; like son.

So they all gather round and they were going to name the baby Zechariah and when Elizabeth spoke up and said: “No! He is to be called John.”

The others then retorted:  “but that’s not one of your family names.” And as if to force the issue – they turn to Zechariah who couldn’t hear or speak and (by making signs) asked him the baby’s name. And he wrote: John.

We therefore have two questions. Why is he called John and why not a family name?

The answer to the first question is found in verse 13 when Zechariah and Elizabeth were first told by an angel that they would have a son. He told them to call the baby John. So in calling the baby John, his parents are being obedient to the Lord. And we are to be obedient to our Lord.

So why John and not a family name?

Zechariah was a priest and in all likelihood, his son would have done the same. Again – like father; like son. So in this baby being called John, he was NOT going to be a priest like his father. See what the people said in verse 66: “What then is this child going to be?”

Now the answer to that is in verse 76 which says: “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.”

John’s job would be to prepare the way for Jesus. Like an announcer at a show who reminds people to get ready and to be prepared for the star of the show to appear – John is pointing towards Jesus. And he does this so we won’t miss him. Imagine you went to a show and you missed it because you were distracted at the bar or the sweet counter! John’s job will be to wake people up and point to Jesus. Many years later, John would point at Jesus and say: The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

If I could just add a further comment on this – and that no matter what you have done, no matter how far you have fallen, no matter how awful the mess, no matter how forlorn you feel. No matter what a failure you think you are. No matter how useless you think you are… the same way John had a job – Jesus has one too. And one of those jobs he has is to take away your sin. That’s his job. That’s what he does. And he will do it for you if you would just ask because he can take away your sin.

I just want to draw out a few more points in relation to Zechariah being filled with the Holy Spirit. Firstly immediately preceding being filled with the Holy Spirit, Zechariah was obedient to the Lord in naming the baby John. If you long to be filled again with the Spirit of Jesus, if you’re life of faith is dry and barren – come to the Lord with all your baggage and weariness and give it to him. Confess your sin and you will receive forgiveness of your sins (verse 77). You may even find that you want to ask the Lord to tell you where you have fallen short so you can come to him and simply have everything out with the Lord.

Zechariah is filled with the Spirit and then prophesies (verse 67). Don’t be worried about this word: “prophesy”. It simply means that God speaks to someone (maybe through the scriptures but never contrary to scripture) and that word that the Lord gives is then passed on: maybe to one person or maybe many. And prophesy will be something that either encourages, strengthens or comforts others (1 Corinthians 14: 3).

May I suggest you now read Zechariah’s prophesy in verses 68-79. Maybe read it out loud:

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
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 ancestors 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 would like to draw out one last point on this. Just imagine you were Zechariah and had spoken these words. What do you feel when you read these words? If you’re not sure – read it again and savour those phrases. And it may have been that Zechariah was holding baby John as he spoke these words.

For Zechariah, there’s a sense of wonder and love and amazement and joy in the Lord. Such is the Lord. That when we simply give ourselves to the Lord; as we dwell on all he has done for us; as we marvel at who God is and what he is like and how he has saved us through Jesus – our hearts melt.

The great hymn writer, Charles Wesley, before the Evangelical revival of the 1700’s met with a pastor called Peter Böhler, and he (Peter Böhler) was so taken with all that Jesus had done, so filled with joy and love for Jesus – so filled with the Spirit of Jesus that he said to Charles Wesley: “if I had a thousand tongues, I would praise him with them all.”

Charles Wesley never forgot what Peter Böhler said and wrote the first verse of his famous hymn:

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of his grace!

May we, like Zechariah, be filled with the Holy Spirit so we can live and work for the Lord and praise him in fullness of spirit for all he has done.

Category: Christmas , Family Service , Sermons , Services

Tags: , ,