Another great service with Ian and Amanda providing the music and worship lead. Our pastor Tim Hyde brought today’s word, continuing on the Advent journey. He started by thinking about the songs and tunes we hear whilst out shopping at this time of year. Have you found what you’re looking for by U2 was playing in one store and seemed sadly apt as people become increasingly desperate to find a particular gift for someone.
Zachariah’s song, sometimes referred to as the Benedictus, shows God’s plan interweaves with routine ordinary life. Zechariah was old, a priest and he and Elizabeth were childless. Imagine the pain they carried through life. In a society where children were a sign of blessing and success this must have been a trial for them.
They were from the same kinship group as Mary. Given the role of Zechariah they must be Levites. Zechariah has it even tougher when he is muted by Gabriel when he doubts the message he is given. Ready to burst with excitement and yet he’s muted! Imagine at that moment he can’t speak and he has to wait 9 months for the fulfilment of the promise. Living with the hope God would fulfil the promise. Zechariah is unmuted and lets rip exuberant praise.
The words he wrote setting out John’s name are displayed at the Church of St John in the Mountains in Israel.
The Promise fulfilled in the birth of John. It was both a promise and a threat as he came as the refiners fire to purge people and make them pure and clean. Zechariah’s song looks for redemption and salvation through the forgiveness of sins. John and Jesus will bring light to those in darkness. We don’t normally think of judgement and usalvation together. Here the ultimate goal is to create peace and freedom for all the families of the earth. The words are outside the church of St. John in the mountains.. the birthplace in Israel. Maybe these words help us feel the long years of silent prayer and hope. Zechariah is a reflection of a new sign from God, acting out his own prophecy.
Tim asked us all to reflect on how long people have prayed for changed, hoped for something to be different, for God to intervene in issues like apartheid, Mugabe, the toppling of the Berlin Wall. We’ve all known of people praying for relationships to be restored. Countless stories of people on their knees in prayer. We cannot say everyone’s prayers have been answered. Life deals some tough things at times but folks like Zechariah never give up hope or stop trusting . We all know older people who stay faithful to the end, people like Bob and Elizabeth Patten. Giving us all knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins. God is coming says Zechariah. Better watch out, better not cry may be familiar call at Christmas but it is not the Jesus message, not fire and brimstone but the incredible peace, the peace that runs all through Luke’s gospel. By the time these words are written by Luke the Roman Empire is not a peaceful place, Jerusalem is destroyed, both John and Jesus are put to death but preach peace to the end. We have a God that came down for us. A light shone in the darkness, it is about being transformed. All of these are a fulfilment of the prophecy in Joel. Luke’s tells the story of real people hesitating at times between faith and doubt. Both big and the little stories matter to God and he delivers on his promises.