I suppose in a lot of circles he’d be a big man. He had a title and privilege. He got to literally go behind the curtain—a status not afforded to the common villager. He was a priest, and not just any priest. He came from the line of Aaron. He was righteous, faithful, and therefore respected.
But for all these things, Zechariah was sad. He loved his wife, Elizabeth, dearly. For all their years of marriage, and despite all their prayers and the prayers of their family, they remained childless. They’d given up hope of any children ever gracing their home.
Their lament and their desire for children was like a dull ache—a gap in their lives. No matter how full the rest of their life seemed, they could not ignore the empty place, the empty chair and the empty room.
Somehow all that changed at the altar of incense. There an angel appeared to Zechariah and told him he and Elizabeth would have a child and they would call him John. The news was so good, too good to the point that he couldn’t believe it and he would be struck mute. The coming months and the growing belly of his wife confirmed the too-good-to-be-true news.
He burst with pride, anxiety, and anticipation all at once. He was like a kid who had waited a thousand Christmases for this one single present. But in the waiting, a message of truth began to take root in John.
Upon the birth of his son, his friends and family expected that the long-awaited son would be called Zechariah Jr.—or something to that effect. But Zechariah intervened, and the muteness turned to strength as he wrote on a tablet, “His name is John.” And the stillness was released to praise:
“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 . . .” (Luke 1.68-69)
Zechariah’s song of praise will go on for 12 verses. Absent in those verses are the longing of his own heart, or the fulfillment of his own dreams. No, to the contrary, Zechariah’s song of praise is about God’s work, his redemption, his salvation, his mercy, his rescue, his handiwork. Even Zechariah’s son John is just two verses of the soliloquy.
Why is his song not about the greatest Christmas gift he’d ever received? Perhaps in the long months of his silence, the mute tongue, while he watched the growing baby inside of Elizabeth, Zechariah realized this great but simple truth: The baby and the story were not about him. The story was not even about the promised child. The story was about God’s greater plan of love and mercy that he was unfolding before a needy world. This child, this baby named John, would just be a forerunner, a message bearer to the true Message for the world.
Yea, indeed, this thing we call Christmas, this day we celebrate, is never about us, but instead about God’s greater story. It’s about his great love and mercy that point to him for all mankind.
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Published December 19, 2017
Topics: A Life of Faith