The Plan of Redemption Goes into Effect
Christmas day has finally arrived and with it the Christmas season. Contrary to our worldly and commercial habit, you actually have twelve days to celebrate this blessed season (according to ancient Church custom) which should now be a joyous occasion as you have prepared for it all of Advent. Having followed the prophet Isaiah through the Advent season, we shall now treat the Gospel accounts of our Lord’s birth and early life.
To begin Luke would have us know that he has “followed all things closely or some time past” and shall now “write an orderly account.” He is doing the work of an historian, sifting details and ordering the facts. Christianity is an historical faith because God is not some distant deity but One who is ever active in the world which He created and fulfilling His purposes in and for it.
And we see here that His plan of redemption begins with a man named Zechariah, a priest, and wife Elizabeth, both advanced in years (i.e., beyond child-bearing years). When Zechariah is chosen by lot to burn incense in the temple (a once-in-a-lifetime event for an ordinary priest) the angel, Gabriel, is sent from God to tell him that his “prayer has been heard.” Now certainly Zechariah was not before the altar praying for a son at that particular moment; such would have been an abuse of his office. He was probably praying for the redemption of Israel or the coming of the Messiah. But his prayers for Israel and his lifelong prayers for a son had coalesced before the throne of God in the person of the child to be conceived in the womb of Elizabeth. And oh what a child: He would be great before the Lord, he would not be given to life’s pleasures, he would be filled with the Holy Spirit FROM THE WOMB, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children (please, God!) and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just. Yes, Zechariah faltered at this pronouncement and paid the penalty for nine months, that is, if neither hearing nor speaking for that amount of time can be deemed a punishment—many of us could benefit from that. But when God was looking for a father for the Forerunner, he didn’t send the angel to my door. Zechariah and Elizabeth “were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.” Amazing blessings come to those who live such lives.
And this particular blessing was being a part of God’s redemptive plan. We may become part of that plan when we repent and believe and walk as Zechariah and Elizabeth walked—righteous and blameless before the Lord.