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Third Sunday of Advent: Zechariah’s Merciful God

Last week, we looked into the story of a young girl who was given a very significant role in God’s story. Mary reminded us that God uses the seemingly insignificant people of this world to accomplish great things. She also taught us to respond to the voice of God with trust and worship. On this, the third Sunday of Advent, we look to an old man. A venerable priest named Zechariah whose story is told by a first century doctor named Luke.

One day, Zechariah was performing his priestly duties. He was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. As Zechariah was burning the incense, an angel appeared beside the altar. Zechariah was shocked, troubled and afraid. And the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard… your wife will bear a son.” This son, the angel went on to explain, would be great before the Lord and turn many children of Israel to God.

Zechariah was somewhat skeptical and doubted the angel. “How shall I know this?” He and his wife Elizabeth had lived with the pain of many barren years. Now they were old and couldn’t see how these words could possibly come true.

Because of his unbelief, Zechariah was made silent, unable to speak until the day the angel’s words were fulfilled. He was taking longer than expected and a crowd had gathered wondering what had happened to him in the temple. When he came out, he could not talk. He could only gesture with his hands to make signs.

Time passed. Miraculously, Elizabeth bore a son to a mute father. On the eighth day, the boy was circumcised. And suddenly, his mouth was opened and he could finally speak again. What was the very first thing that Zechariah spoke? Having been mute for almost a year, the very first words out of his mouth were blessings to the one who silenced him. And the Holy Spirit filled him as he uttered a prophetic word about the mercy of God.

In the life of Zechariah, God shows himself to be merciful. To be kind. God promised Zechariah a son. And despite Zechariah’s lack of faith, God mercifully made good on his word. 
 In the coming months, God would grant Zechariah another son. Not a second child, but a son for the entire world to enjoy… the very son of God.

This son would not prepare the way for the Lord. He would be the way.

This son would not baptize with water. He would baptize with his blood.

This son would not point sinners to salvation, his death would be the very means of it.

This son would not point to coming light. He would be the very light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

It is in Jesus coming that God shows his mercy in truest expression. That he would repay doubters with fulfilled promises. That he would give a voice to those without one. That he would visit sinners and repay their rebellion not with wrath but peace.

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