In the previous post, Zechariah had begun to sing praise to God. He declared that his son was to be called John and then his ability to speak returned once more.
Here’s the first half of his song, from Luke’s gospel:
His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
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.
Now, if you’re Jewish, all of that makes total sense straight up. If you’re not Jewish, there could be a few names that are unknown in this context, or in need of further explanation. However, instead of trying to work out the who’s who of ancient Jewish history, I think the ideas are more interesting to note:
Redeemed. Horn of salvation. Salvation from our enemies. Show mercy to our ancestors. Remember his holy covenant, the oath. Rescue us from the hand of our enemies. Enable us to serve him without fear.
These are some massive concepts and there’s some repetition of ideas as well: too many to reflect on properly in the space of a short blog post. It is also a little confusing at this point just who exactly Zechariah is talking about here.
Regardless, when I read through these lines all grouped together, there is a strong sense of joy in the passage. The word joy isn’t in there, but that’s a summary of what Zechariah is saying, is it not? The goodness of God stands out ever so clearly: redemption, salvation, mercy, promised kept, rescued, without fear.
Such ideas bring joy because these ideas are just so overwhelmingly, unyieldingly good. But they are not just ideas, they can be our experience too.
Such an experience can be ours also: that is the message of Christmas.
And it is an undeniably wonderful experience. It’s no wonder Zechariah began to sing. Exactly who and what he was singing about becomes clearer in the second half of the song, which I’ll explore tomorrow.
Yours in experiencing joy,