Dec 6, 2012, Commerce Presbyterian Church, GA
Slide: Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John
Domenico Ghirlandaio's Zechariah Writes Down the Name of His Son (1490,)
The story of Jesus’ birth is told in detail in the Gospel according to Luke, and it is one of the most beloved stories of all of Scripture. The story of Jesus’ cousin, John’s birth, is also part of this story and told in detail in Luke.
This morning I will read about an occurrence from John’s birth from the end of the first Chapter of Luke, verses 68-79, found on page 60 Red, 834 in Black pew bibles if you’d like to follow along.
It is a song sung by Zechariah. Grounded in the present, Zechariah sings a song of praise, claiming and celebrating God’s liberation in the past, and a song of prophesy, of expectation, hopeful for what God will do in the not too far off future through the coming Savior, and his own son.
But before I read it, let’s step back and ask: Who was this Zechariah, the priest?
Let’s call him Zech for short. It’s kind of fun to think about how one becomes qualified to make it into the bible. And I can really relate to this guy’s story. I’m a preacher, kind of a priest. Zech was a priest of the order of Abijah. Who? I don’t think for that reason he made it.
He was a husband to Elizabeth, who the bible says was a descendant of Aaron..As in Aaron the brother of Moses. Now, that definitely got Zech some “cred”..he married up:)
What’s more Elizabeth is a relative of Mary, as in the future the mother of Jesus. You can imagine people probably talked about him like this, “Hey, isn’t that Elizabeth’s husband. Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin.” I get it, people talk about me like that. “Isn’t that Trasie’s husband,” but that wasn’t all.
Zech also became a father...father of John the Baptist. And there it is. Zechariah became well known because of one of his children. Now I really get it.
I am certainly known for my children. Ruby’s dad or Zia’s dad!
Zech made the bible because of his wife, Elizabeth, and his child, John the Baptist--kind of dumb luck, but hey, it was providential and he was faithful in his calling.
As with many births in the Bible, the birth of John is one not without strange events!
Zech and his wife Elizabeth had not yet had children; they were beginning to think that they wouldn’t have any children. But, the angel Gabriel appears to Zech, “your prayer has been heard, you will have a child, but, not just any child! The messenger who would prepare the way for the Messiah, who would deliver the people from their enemies!
Zech, first terrified becomes incredulous, “can this be true?”
Wrong answer. He is made mute.
Maybe a punishment,
or maybe a lesson to be learned about the power of silence.... For months, as the baby grows in Elizabeth’s womb, and Elizabeth is probably really loving the peace and quiet.
When they go to the temple to dedicate the baby, Zech still can’t say a word. Elizabeth, obedient, says they will name the child John. Others question: what? Why, no one has that name in your family. That’s like naming a baby Zia? What kind of name is John?
Zech, father of the boy, what do you say? Uh, Nothing
SLIDE: Like, Anthony Hopkin’s character in Legend of the Fall,
Zech has to grab his writing tablet,
and he writes, “His name is John.”
He could have also written. “What she said.”
Then! A miracle! Zech’s tongue is loosed,
what would come out of your mouth the if you’d been speechless for months?
Well, here’s what Zech said, Let us listen to God’s Holy Word:
SLIDE Scripture Luke 1:68-79.
Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:
‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favourably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty saviour for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.’
The word of the Lord.
SLIDE: 1210 Apache
Trasie and I bought our first house in Santa Fe. We bought it before we had children. Part of the reason we chose it was because it was ready to move into. Not a lot of work to be done. Or so I thought!
Well, my wife Trasie, is a designer. That's how you have to say that, designer. Try it. She studied industrial design at the trade school on North Avenue.
Before she was pregnant, she had us make a few changes, clean up the yard a bit. Paint a few walls. Looks fine. Then, she got pregnant.
Suddenly, all of these changes in the house began: The future room of Ruby Gene's was converted from an office so it got cleaned out, repainted, new furniture (changing table, crib), all kinds of clothes and diapers, baby books, toys, ....
But not only that...she put in a covered patio outside, a deck in the back, she switched a door that was in the front our house with a window that was in the back, installed additional cabinets in the kitchen, new landscaping…
We even got chickens...all in about a year. Don't even asked how we paid or had time for this...I don't know....
I found out later, this phenomena is quite common.
Slide: It is called: nesting instinct
Mama birds, before they lay eggs, build nests...it’s called nesting instinct---lots of creatures have it. Just to varying degrees.
Humans have it: It's defined as "the distinctive urge to clean, tidy, and organize that occurs during pregnancy."1 A desire to have your baby’s room ready, all her clothes organized, and her meals planned, to ensuring your baby will have the best chance for growth and survival after birth."2 Well, that is a mild definition compared to what occurred in Trasie. Her nesting instinct kicked in big time.
Thinking about Zech and Elizabeth,
Since Elizabeth wanted this baby so bad and had been waiting for so long, where do you think she was on the nesting instinct scale? I’m sure it was off the charts, so you better believe Zech had it in for him. You know she put that dude to work!
Just picture him, a priest... who can’t talk....
A husband who... can’t say a mumblin word....
An expectant father, with his own nesting instinct kicking in (we men have it too).
He probably built a whole new house!
And what do we do while we work on these projects? A lot of thinking, contemplating...wondering what would come of this child?
They were both probably pretty content, all things considered.
What faithfulness God has shown to finally bring this messenger, the messenger of the Lord, and this messenger will be his boy.
Zech was a priest. He knew the prophecy of Malachi:
His boy, the messenger, who would be named John, Malachi compares to "a refiner’s fire...burning, purifying people as if they were a precious metal, or a fuller's soap...lye, bleach, that could cleanse wool...and make it white as snow.
Zechariah and Elizabeth prepare the way for John,
and the role of this child: "go before the Lord to prepare his ways." Luke 1:76
nesting instinct, preparation for the coming child
Let’s look closely about how John was preparing for the coming Lord:
Slide: How John prepares the way
John was “to give knowledge of salvation... and of forgiveness of their sins;"
John was to be a "light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.’"
During this advent season, we await with anticipation the coming of the Christ Child!
How are we preparing? making room? In our hearts? In this world?
We know well how to get ready for Christmas, as we hang lights;
make parade floats, put up a tree, shop shop shop, wrap gifts, and scramble around from one event to the next.
What are we getting ready for...in our hearts...what are we making room for...?
As wonderful as this season can be,
Advent is also a wonderful season to allow our nesting instinct to kick in, in preparation for the coming of the Lord.
Can you let your own nesting instinct kick in to help you prepare?
-Let that nesting instinct kick in to help us prepare for deeper, more a meaningful relationship with the Christ child who came to be our savior, and deeper more meaningful relationships with others.
-Let that nesting instinct kick in to help us prepare by being present to one another and to practice forgiveness when necessary.
-Let that nesting instinct kick in to help us prepare by reaching out to those who are lonely, or who may be hurting during this time of year, as we allow the light of Christ to shine forth in the darkness.
-Let that nesting instinct kick in as we prepare for the world we want to leave for future generations.
-Let that nesting instinct kick in as we prepare by allowing our feet to be guided in the way of peace, in the face of so many forces that would not want peace in this world.Praise be to God during this holy season. Your salvation is coming! Prepare a the way!