Advent Midweek Worship
December 13, 2017
“A Proud Father”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Now here are some of the greatest words you’ll ever hear – “I’m proud of you!!” How we long for those words of approval and appreciation. Some people have waited their whole life to hear such words – and they don’t come, or they are spoken quite sparingly.
But those words are life giving and life enabling. They inspire us and they make us want to go on. Listen to them – “I’m proud of you!!” They can come from a father or a mother. Maybe a spouse has spoken that to another. Coach? Teacher? A boss? Friend? When they come from someone who we respect, whose words and acceptance mean everything to us, they endure for years, even decades. When life has eaten us up and we wonder if we are good for anything that phrase will resurrect us.
Just as they are important for us to hear from another, there are folks, our dearest ones, who need those words to come from us. They covet our heart and love and words. “I’m proud of you!!” Yes, you!!
I’ve titled this short series on Wednesday’s, “The Songs of Advent”. Last week, 121 of you got to hear the song of Mary, “The Magnificat”, or as my spell-checker told me, “The Magnificent”. Tonight it is the song of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, the proud father, in the words of “The Benedictus” that we speak. Benedictus, the first words in Latin mean “Praise Be…”
Zechariah was just proud to be a father. He had wanted to be a father from the time that he married Elizabeth, but it just didn’t happen. They grew old together but they didn’t have any children. When you hear about Zechariah and Elizabeth you have to think about Abraham and Sarah. Barren. Impotent. Well past the years of having children. We read about their reality – “But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.” (Luke 1:7) Even after Gabriel, the angel who keeps on telling unsuspecting ladies that they are going to have little babies, spoke, Zechariah tells it like it is, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” (Luke 1:18) (At least he is smart enough, and doesn’t commit the unforgiveable sin by calling her OLD!! – She is just “well along in years”!!)
Even though Zechariah doesn’t believe that this is going to happen, Gabriel tells him how proud he is going to be – “He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth.” (Luke 1:14) And this proud father can get a little bigger in his boasting – “Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:16-17)
Zechariah had to be a proud father. This son, born by God’s miracle, was going to do greater things than his earthly father could ever imagine. But as proud as he was, he wasn’t able to share this verbally for at least five months. Gabriel took away his speech. “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.” (Luke 1:19-20)
He was proud. But silent. But when John, whose name means, “God is gracious” was born, Zechariah had some proud words to say. Read them with me. (Luke 1:67-80, Pages 1042-1043 in the Pew Bible)
As proud as he was about his son, he doesn’t begin about him. He begins about Him – God. The first 8 verses of this Benedictus are about the pride that he had in God. God kept His word. He had spoken His covenant and He remembered His every word. “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago).” (Luke 1:68-70)
God gets blamed for a lot of the bad that happens on the earth. Why didn’t God stop the shooter that took the lives of so many? Why didn’t God help me when everything went wrong? Why me? Why this? God gets the pointy finger at times. He gets the fist when we get angry.
How about this? How about pride? We are proud of our Father. Zechariah, once not believing that God could do the impossible is filled with the Holy Spirit and can’t wait to tell all how proud he is that God, the God who does the impossible, is his God. “[He has come} to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” (Luke 1:74-75) Do you ever get a little cocky about the greatness of your God? We should. Silent, no more.
Zechariah then gets to consider that his son is going to have a huge part to play in God’s plan of redemption and salvation. As he takes that little boy in his arms, on the eighth day of his life, on the day he was circumcised, he boasts, “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.” (Luke 1:76-77)
Zechariah was proud that his son was going to change lives and bless lives, not of his own doing, but pointing people toward another – toward Jesus. In John 1 we are told about John but then about something greater that he would do. “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” (John 1:6-9) Zechariah was proud his son was going to witness to the light that would destroy the darkness.
I hope you can look around and see someone in your life that is doing remarkable things. Maybe they came from you – a daughter, a son, a friend, a co-worker and you get to speak the greatest words to them – “I’m proud of you”. You can tell them – “You’re a gift of God to many.”
Today, on the Wednesday of Advent, on this day when we hear a song of Advent, we hear about a proud father thanking God for God’s grace shown to him. Zechariah was a proud father, his son would lead people to Jesus. His son would change the lives of people, forever, into their eternity. Zechariah was a proud believer. We are too!! “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel.” Amen!!