He has raised up a horn of salvation for us… to rescue us from the hand of our enemies and to enable us to serve him without fear.
Luke 1.69, 74
Old Enough to Know Better
In a feat of literary bravado, Luke kicks off his Gospel with parallel plots: the conceptions of Jesus and John the Baptist. It’s conceivable he brings John into the picture to contrast Zechariah, his father, with Mary. Luke finds Zechariah, a priest getting on in years, alone in the temple. An angel tells him his wife, Elizabeth, is pregnant with a boy, whom he’s to name John. Zechariah asks, “How can I be sure of this? I’m old and my wife’s not much younger.” The angel ignores him and essentially says if he’s that old, he’s old enough to know better than to doubt God’s messenger. Before the priest can utter a word, the angel strikes him dumb until his boy is born. Six months later, while Zechariah remains speechless, the same angel visits Mary. She takes the angel at his word. “I am the Lord’s servant,” she says. “May it be to me as you have said.”
Time to Think
For nine months, Zechariah has time to think about how he messed up. But did he mess up? Before embracing her news, Mary asks a very similar question: “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Her response is no less mystified than Zechariah’s—or so it appears. Side-by-side, however, they’re radically different. Zechariah asks to be sure. Mary asks to understand. He’s uncertain of his possibilities. Her question rings with faith—how will this be, not how can it be. That’s the big difference Luke wants us to see between the old priest and the young girl. God’s promises aren’t for the hesitant and fearful. They don’t resonate with people who fall back on experience and precedent. But when we take His Word at face value and try to grasp where we fit into His plan, we find (as the angel tells Mary) “nothing is impossible with God.”
Where Doubt Leads
Doubt takes us one of two places: defeat or belief. Either we stick with our questions or we reach a place where we toss them aside. Zechariah chooses the latter. When John is born, family and friends rush to see the new baby, wanting to know what Elizabeth and Zechariah chose for his name. Everyone assumes he’ll be named for his father. When they hear his name is “John,” they draw back. “Nobody in your family has that name,” they say. Zechariah motions for a pad to write, “His name is John.” He’s sure this time. His written confession loosens his tongue and, having been trapped with his thoughts for so long, he starts to sing. He rhapsodizes about the imminent birth of Jesus, and his song remains thrilling to this day—especially coming from a fearful old man.
“God has raised up a horn,” Zechariah sings, referring to a symbol of strength, “so that people and circumstances that once inhibited our worship are powerless against us.” There’s no reason to doubt any more. There’s nothing and no one to be afraid of. God has rescued us from our enemies and enabled us to serve Him without fear. When experience and logic lead us to doubt, we can let it carry us away. Or, like Zechariah, if we take time to think about what our doubt signifies, it can lead us to faith. Others' opinions and beliefs about anyone’s right to follow Jesus are not our concern. Opposition from our family, church, and community isn’t our battle. Jesus is our strength. He has come to our rescue. He has enabled us to serve Him without fear.
Zechariah and the angel.
(Tomorrow: Before Birth)
Postscript: The Christmas Album
Well, actually, it’s a mix—and it’s really good! A number of you pitched in your holiday favorites to compile a “Straight-Friendly Christmas Album” as a gift we all can share during this season. In my appeal, I suggested it would also give us a musical snapshot of the fine, eclectic group of people who drop by. Well, fine and eclectic it is. Even the two different versions of two songs were too good to choose between. So I put all of them in. I know you’ll enjoy it—not just for what’s on it, but how beautifully it comes together! Here’s the list of songs and contributors:
- O Come, O Come Emmanuel – Joan Baez (FranIAm)
- Rejoice – Richard Smallwood & Vision (Tim)
- Baby, It’s Cold Outside – James Taylor & Natalie Cole (Annette)
- O Come All Ye Faithful – Nat “King” Cole (Cuboid Master)
- Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt (Annette)
- Joy to the World – Mariah Carey (johnmichael)
- Wildwood Carol – Holly Cole (Tim)
- Jesus, Oh What a Wonderful Child – Marva Wright (Tim)
- Jingle Bells – The Mexicali Brass (Cuboid Master)
- Breath of Heaven – Donna Summer (FranIAm)
- Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Alan Cumming & Liza Minnelli (FranIAm)
- O Holy Night – Josh Groban (FranIAm)
- Grown-Up Christmas – Amy Grant (johnmichael)
- Greensleeves – Vince Guaraldi Trio (Annette)
- Joy to the World – Whitney Houston (Tim)
- Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – James Taylor (Border Explorer)
You can download it here.
(File size: 61 Kb. Total run-time is just over an hour.)
Joy to the world, everyone!