The Plan Is the Important Part
Well, he really wasn’t a “Baptist” according to today’s terms, but we Baptists like to think so. He would be more accurately called, “the Baptizer,” but some designations just stick, and this is one of them. So the day came for Elizabeth to be delivered. The ancient Jews knew how to celebrate such events, and for all I know they still do. I love the way the neighbors surrounded and rejoiced with them since “the Lord had shown great mercy to her.” The birth of a child is always a sign of God’s great mercy to us.
So the day came to circumcise the child and he must be named. Upon verification of Elizabeth’s words by Zechariah, they learn that the child’s name is—not will be, but is—John per the instructions of the angel. Thereupon Zechariah’s tongue is loosed (and ears opened, we may presume) and he is filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesies (it seems prophesying accompanies the filling of the Holy Spirit in Scripture).
And let us hear what Zechariah says. Please note that from the start he does not praise the boy or the miraculous birth of his son. All of that, which was why they were gathered together in the first place, takes a back seat. A back seat to what? To what God is doing. And what is God doing? “He has visited and redeemed His people,” “raised up a horn of salvation for us,” fulfilled prophecy so “that we should be saved from our enemies,” “to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant,” and ultimately “that we…might serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him all of our days.” This is what God was doing; namely fulfilling his promises of old, putting into play his plan of redemption. And Zechariah is only too aware that he, Elizabeth, and even the baby are secondary to that. God could have chosen other people but in His mercy He chose them. And because he did, this child will go before Him to prepare the way to the most wonderful task a preacher has: “To give knowledge of salvation to His people in the forgiveness of their sins” because God’s tender mercies were alighting upon His people.
I began these Christmas devotions writing that what we see in these passages of Scripture is God working His plan of redemption. We too easily get caught up in the story and all of the wonderful details—which is fine and well. But let’s not lose sight of the meaning in the wonderful details. God was fulfilling His plan for the salvation of His people, and these individuals were blessed to be direct participants in that plan. And so are we.