Malachi 3:1-4 =
Psalmody: Luke 1:68-79
December 4, 2021
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
You know something, in all the Christmas Pageants I have been involved in, none of them ever included the character of John the Baptist. Which is sad because I am like the perfect person to play John the Baptist. I would be glad to scream at people while wearing a bathrobe and drinking hot tea with honey. I mean, that is me on most Saturday mornings…just ask my kids. John the Baptist plays a pivotal role in our Advent season because we look to him for guidance as to how we can prepare ourselves for the return of Christ because he was the prophet tasked with the assignment to prepare the way of the Lord. As we will hear next week, John takes his work seriously. He acts like all the prophets before him. He goes in and says what needs to be said. He seems fearless. He has a job to do and he will do it.
But that is not what I am drawn to today. I am drawn to the psalmody—Luke 1:68-79—the Benedictus or the Song of Zechariah.
Zechariah makes this song after his Son has been born and he is able to speak again. If you remember, Zechariah doubts God’s ability to have his wife bear a child even though that is something well within the wheelhouse of God. Zechariah is a priest and should know his biblical history. For 9+ months, Zechariah cannot speak. 9 months not being able to share his joy and excitement. 9 months not able to tell Elizabeth how much he loves her. 9 months not to be to read the word of God aloud for the people. But after 9 months, after 9 long months, the first words out Zechariah’s mouth:
The Benedictus is “one of three canticles—the other two being Mary’s Magnificat and the Song of Simeon—in the first chapter of Luke. This song pronounces praise for the birth of John the Baptist. John’s birth marks a reversal of fate for Zechariah and Elizabeth after their period of lack, and it announces the beginning of a reversal of fate for humanity, who stands in a period of spiritual lack in need of God’s deliverance.” Zechariah’s words follow a format that “is reminiscent of the barakah formula in the Hebrew Bible which begins with an initial statement of praise (Luke 1:68a) followed by the reason for said praise (1:68b-74) and concluding with a formula for praise (1:75-79).”
The Benedictus is also used as part of the the morning prayer offices. Every morning during Lauds, monks for centuries have sang this song. It is something that i used every Fay we prayed morning prayer at seminary. “Here, the works of God are not only God’s blessing of Israel and their deliverance from enemies but also the maintenance of the covenant and the birth of John. In this way the author signifies human capacity to be God’s praise in our ability to live in communion with God. Similarly, but with some nuance, we as human beings have the ability to bear witness to God’s work in history. We see God’s ability to step, to be attentive, to deliver, and redeem; and as a result of what we see, we are able to offer praise.” “When God visits God’s people, God makes God’s self manifest in their lives. God shows up to interrupt misery and lack with an intention to restore and sustain the people.”
But on this day, I am also think about the first time father, Zachariah. I think about Zachariah holding his son, John for the first time and singing this beautiful canticle. I remember the first time I held Thomas. I was a blubbering mess. Holding him in my arms. Completely exhausted at 4 in the morning, telling him all these things about the world, about his mom, about me, how I never want him to be anything like me…to be like his mom. I made all kinds of promises to him that night as I held him in my arms. And as he slept, wrapped tightly in a blanket, I wondered how he was going to change the world. I wondered what God had in store for him. As I held this little baby, I simply had no clue about his future. Now a days, he tells me he is going to be a doctor and train engineer. But that night, It wasn’t written anywhere on him. I didn’t have an angel come and tell me what God wants him to do. I knew, and still know, nothing.
Zachariah did. “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Zachariah knew the fate that awaited his son. He knew very well what the people do to prophets. He knew very well what it was like to be a prophet. People murder the prophets because nobody usually likes what the prophets say. When a prophet shows up, it is us usually too late to change. Prophets typically do not come out on top. And his, His son would be a prophet.
So, Zachariah words to his son, his newborn baby son really resonate this day. “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.”
Could you sing that about your son or you daughter? Would any one of us want God to use our child in the way that God used John. Remember, John’s death was gruesome and it happened all because he did what he was sent by God to do. Speak truth to power. “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.” It sounds so beautiful, it sounds so wonderful, until it your own kid. I don’t want that fate for my kid, yet I know, and I understand that without John, who then? The world was changed by John and for 2000 years, we have remembered his words and his sacrifice that he made for his cousin—the savior of the world.
What is God calling you to this day? Where is God leading you? Maybe you are a new parent and are wondering what God has in store for your child. Maybe you are in elementary, middle, or high school and are trying to figure this all out. Or maybe you are feeling pretty stuck at the moment in your career and need a change. God is still speaking.
I want you to think about what God is speaking to you today. I want you think about what God has spoken about you this day. What is God leading you to this day? Use that worksheet in your bulletin today to help you work through these questions.
“Zechariah’s song announces that God is trustworthy, and the promises of God will be fulfilled. That the fulfillment is coming is an invitation to live as if it is already here. From this posture, John is given his vocation: prepare people to live into the fulfilled promise. John is responsible for helping people repent so that they might see the breaking dawn of the promise.” What is your vocation? Where is God leading you? I don’t know. I don’t know what God has in store for my two my boys. I got no clue, but I hope to God that no matter what they do, no matter where we go, that the good news may be proclaim through them and that people might witness and see the salvation of God in all they do.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.