Have you ever paused to think about how the characters in the birth narratives about Jesus must have felt when they get caught up in this story that is punctuated with angels and miracles? In his book, The Jesus I Never Knew Philip Yancey shares this personal story. "I recall watching an episode of the TV show Thirysomething in which Hope, a Christian, argues with her Jewish husband, Michael, about the holidays. 'Why do you even bother with Hanukkah?' she asks. 'Do you really believe a handful of Jews held off a huge army by using a bunch of lamps that miraculously wouldn't run out of oil?'
"Michael exploded. 'Oh, and Christmas makes more sense? Do you really believe an angel appeared to some teenage girl who then got pregnant without ever having sex and traveled on horseback to Bethlehem where she spent the night in a barn and had a baby who turned out to be the Savior of the world?'
"Frankly, Michael's incredulity seems close to what I read in the Gospels. Mary and Joseph must face the shame and derision of family and neighbors, who react, well, much like Michael ('Do you really believe and angel appeared...')."
Incredulity. We saw that last week in the background to Mary's song ("How can this be, since I am a virgin?"). We see it again this week in the background to Zechariah's song. The entire story is incredible! For the faithful there is the awe-some sense of the presence of the holy, though for the skeptic it may seem more like make-believe. Zechariah doubted in the beginning but ends up singing God's praises!
Read Luke 1:5-25 for background and then read the song in verses 67-80. Use the questions below help you meditate on Zechariah's prophetic song!
1. What does Luke tell us about Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-25)?
2. Why do you think Gabriel responded differently to Zechariah's response to his news than he did to Mary (cf. Luke 1:34ff.)?
3. What would you say is the overall tenor of Zechariah's song?
4. How would you outline this song? What are its different parts or themes?
5. What does this song tell us about God in verses 68-75? And what was God up to in the birth of both John and Jesus?
* What is the aim of God's saving work described in these verses, 68-75?
6. How does Zechariah sing about his son (vv. 76-77)? What does he know about John's calling?
7. In verses 78-79 the focus changes from Zechariah's son to another. Who is Zechariah prophesying about and what does he do?
8. How would you summarize the main points of this song? And what does this song teach us about the meaning of Advent?
9. What one thing do you think the Lord would have you take away from this meditation?
bGod be with you!