By Pastor Hans Fiene. Edited for Zion by Pr. Andersen
More great stuff from Pastor Fiene at: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheLutheranSatire
Zechariah wouldn’t cut it as a parent today. In 21st century American suburbia, Zechariah would be profoundly out of place in a culture that raises children to believe that the primary reason for their existence is to build up their own glory instead of the glory of God.
So people teach their children to be selfish and prideful. They teach their children to believe that what matters most in life is their own specialness and happiness and success. When parents discover that their children have certain gifts or talents, they teach them to make those things focus of their entire lives, often times at the expense of everything and everyone else. Let’s just imagine a star high school quarterback wanted to sit out a game—or worse, quit the team entirely—to let his backup have a shot. His parents would do everything they could to talk him out of this crazy idea. Or imagine how the high school valedictorian’s parents would feel if she decided to forego college to get married and become a mother? Her parents would likely sit her down and explain to her that, while that’s a very nice idea, she should really focus on herself before starting a family. These days it seems the motto of our culture is “It’s okay to be selfish.” Zechariah wouldn’t fit well in this “I me mine” generation of ours.
And sadly, if Zechariah were here with us at Zion today, I don’t think he’d fit in all that better with us. Sure, we teach our children that Christ should be the center of their lives—unless, of course, He gets in the way of something they want to do or be. Of course we bring our children to church—except for when they have games or recitals or some other event where they can put their talents on display for the world to see. We do teach our children to talk to people about Jesus —except when it might make it harder for them to get a good grade or job. And we teach them to believe what the Bible says—unless it tells them to stop doing the kind of things that translate into worldly success. And of course, the reason we teach our children these things is because this is what we believe. We raise our children to be carbon-copies of ourselves, people who believe that God is great—unless He gets in your way.
But as we see in today’s Holy Gospel from St. Luke, this is not what Zechariah taught his son John the Baptist. Which is pretty amazing when you consider the circumstances of John’s birth. Zechariah finds out about his wife Elizabeth’s pregnancy from an angel. This angel tells him that his elderly and barren wife is going to have a son, just like Sarah who gave birth to Isaac in her old age. He tells him that his son is going to a prophet like Elijah, even though they hadn’t seen a prophet in something like 300 years. Let’s face it, when you look at everything going on, Zechariah should have a much harder time than we do telling his son that he is nothing and that Christ is everything.
And yet, that’s exactly what he teaches John. So John is born, and all these people are gathered around trying to figure out the meaning of all this miraculous stuff surrounding his birth. They want to know what kind of amazing future he has in store for him. But when Zechariah finally opens his mouth, he doesn’t start bragging about his son John or how gifted he is or that he’ll be first chair in the orchestra someday. Sure, he had plenty to brag about. Not everyone’s kid is John the Baptist. But when Zechariah opens his mouth, the first thing he talks about is Jesus.
Zechariah speaks of the redemption that Jesus is going to win with his blood. He speaks of Jesus as the horn of salvation from the house of David, the one who is going to rule from David’s throne forever in peace and mercy. Zechariah doesn’t begin by praising his son, but by praising the Son of his wife’s cousin, this little child still in Mary’s womb. He praises her Son as the one who is going to deliver his people from their enemies, from sin, death, and the devil. And then he goes on to tell his son John that his job will be to decrease, to make himself nothing so that Christ can be his everything. He is to prepare the way for this Savior. Zechariah taught his son John that his goal in life was to point people to Jesus and His salvation.
And Jesus brought us that salvation. Walking the road that John the Baptist prepared, Jesus trampled on all those sins that earned our condemnation—all that pride that had us loving ourselves and our money and our accomplishments instead of loving God and our neighbor. Jesus took those sins and he drowned them in His own blood. Walking that path prepared by Zechariah’s son, Jesus led a perfect life without sin so that when he died and rose again, he could welcome us into his kingdom, so that he could bring us by his side as he ruled from David’s throne forever. Walking that path, Jesus cast out demons and raised the dead en route to crushing the devil’s serpentine head beneath his feet when he went to the cross. On this path, Jesus forgave your sins, triumphed over your enemies, and gave you the gift of everlasting life. On this path, Jesus took people who were unfaithful parents who raised our children to be selfish and prideful and he made us into faithful parents who looked much more like faithful Zechariah. And even more so, on this path prepared by Zechariah’s son, Jesus took us, he took people who were sinful, idolatrous childr en of the world and he made us into the holy, beloved children of God. Amen.