Praise the Lord

Luke 1:68–75 68Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited us and prepared redemption for his people. 69He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70just as he said long ago through the mouth of his holy prophets. 71He raised up salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, 72in order to show mercy to our fathers by remembering his holy covenant, 73the oath which he swore to Abraham our father, 74to grant deliverance to us from the hand of our enemies, so that we are able to serve him without fear, 75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

Charlie had been in a serious car accident. While he was fortunate to escape life-threatening injury, when his vehicle crashed and the airbag deployed, he almost bit off his tongue. A surgeon was called to stitch the severed portion. But the doctor gave no guarantee. He said, “It may heal and you will speak again, or it may not.”

Several months went by in complete silence. Finally, the stitches were removed and people wondered, “What would be the first words Charlie would speak?” Cautiously, Charlie positioned his tongue and said, “Praise the Lord!”

Charlie’s story parallel’s Zechariah’s story. The two could not speak, but once they had the opportunity to speak again, they immediately gave praise to the Lord.

Charlie barely survived a car accident and then endured months of silence. Zechariah survived an encounter with an angel and then was mute for nine months. It may seem like you are barely surviving and getting by in life. There is stress in your marriage. The doctors can’t figure out what is making your child so sick. There is a dull pain that never leaves your body. You can’t get a good night sleep. The devil is tempting and tormenting you constantly.

Each one of these things seeks to mute your to praise the Lord. When we focus on our circumstances, our mouths are shut tight and our voices are silenced. But, when we focus on what God has done for us with the gift of His Son, we want to join Charlie and Zechariah in praising the Lord.

The words in Zechariah’s song are not only eye opening, they are jaw dropping and tongue loosening.

Zechariah was a priest serving in the temple in Jerusalem. The holy messenger of God, the angel Gabriel, visited him in that holy place. Zechariah doubted the angel’s words that Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth, would bear him a son in her old age. So the Lord struck him mute.

For nine months, Zechariah is absolutely silent. But then his miracle baby is born. The family and friends disagree with Elizabeth on the name for this child. She insists that it should be John. They are adamant that it should be Zach Jr. But then Zechariah writes on his tablet in big, bold letters “His name is John!” Immediately Zechariah’s mouth is opened, his tongue is loosened, and he begins to praise God with this song we call the Benedictus Dominus, which is Latin for “Blessed Lord,” which is how this canticle begins, “Blessed or praise to the Lord, the God of Israel.” Zechariah has not been able to speak for nine months, but now he’s got a mouthful to say, and it’s all good. Zechariah is filled with the Holy Spirit, and his prayer and his praise is not for his baby boy. Instead, Zechariah praises the Lord for the Child who spent three months visiting with him in his house, while still in His mother Mary’s womb.

Zechariah has a lot of things going on in his life. He probably lost much of his livelihood because it’s hard to be a priest and not be able to talk. He and his wife are old. They are now new parents. But who is going to care for their son when they could possibly die during his teenage years? John is going to be the great forerunner of the Savior, but Mom and Dad probably won’t live long enough to see their son in action. All of that is going on, yet Zechariah sets all of that aside in order to praise his God.

What about you? What do you have going on in your life right now? The alarm doesn’t go off, so your child is late for school. It’s snowing, and you can’t start your snowblower. You are making dinner, when one child remembers that he has a report due in the morning and his younger sister is complaining about a tummy ache. You can’t find your keys, and when you do, you are almost out of gas and your tire is low.

All of these by themselves are minor things. But they can quickly become major things. Your child is late for school and already crying and your words come out harsh. Your snowblower won’t start but the foul words have certainly started blowing out of your mouth. While you are making dinner, helping a sick child and another with homework, you resent that your spouse isn’t doing enough. Your car troubles only lead to trouble with your boss and coworkers.

Stress has a way of taking little things, blowing them out of proportion, and transforming kind-and-gentle you into a touchy, short-tempered grouch. Our stress can break free at the most inconvenient times. It can lash out at any unsuspecting soul who inadvertently crosses our path.

All of these minor things can become major things. All of these can pile up and create a mountain of stress. That mountain becomes so big that we can’t see around it to observe the blessings of the Lord. We allow these things to get in the way of praising the Lord.

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited us.” Notice how Zechariah uses the past tense here. As Zechariah sings this song, Jesus is still in the womb of His mother Mary. But God has come from heaven to visit His people. God has come to earth as a helpless, tiny infant, in the womb of his mother. But He is the One who would grow up to visit the homes of Zacchaeus to offer forgiveness, visit the home of Peter to heal his mother-in-law, and visit the home of Mary and Martha to raise their brother, Lazarus, from the dead.

Many of us feel alone, separated from family by strained relationships, nursing home doors, or by death. Yet Jesus does not leave us alone and floundering. He has visited us as Immanuel – God with us.

“He has prepared redemption for his people.” Jesus won’t be going to the cross for another thirty-some years. But it’s a done deal. As surely as the sun comes up in the morning, so our redemption is completed even before Jesus goes to the cross … even before He is born!

Some of us know what it is like to need help with groceries and bills, others of us know what it’s like to be in the financial position to help others with a few canned goods or a few dollars. But Jesus didn’t drop a dollar or two or a few cans of creamed corn to help the needy. He dropped His precious blood from the cross to redeem us, to pay the ransom price to rescue us from death and hell. He has prepared redemption for His people – us!

“He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, just as he said long ago through the mouth of his holy prophets.” A “horn” of salvation is a very biblical way to talk. The horn was an ancient symbol of strength, like a ram’s horn. Zechariah says that the Lord has raised up such a horn now “in the house of his servant David.” We heard this prophecy earlier in our Old Testament lesson: “The Lord also declares to you that the Lord himself will make a house for you. When your days are complete and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up after you your seed, who will come from your own body. I will establish his kingdom. He will build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (2 Samuel 7:11-13)

The house of David was the royal line of that old king, the line from which Israel’s kings were to come, as prophesied so long ago. That royal line had been dormant for several centuries now. No Davidic king had actively reigned in Israel for hundreds of years. The line of David kept producing descendants – like Joseph and Mary. It was just that no kings were coming from that line. Zechariah, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says that has now changed.

“In order to show mercy to our fathers by remembering his holy covenant, the oath which he swore to Abraham our father.” A “covenant” is another word for a “promise.” Before God promised a son to David, He promised a son to Abraham. David’s royal line had withered. Abraham’s line wouldn’t start. He was a 99-year-old childless husband. Until God kept His covenant promise to give Abraham a son as one hundredth birthday present.

If you are smarting over the betrayal of someone, if you have been let down by someone, if you are living amid broken promises, then trust in your God who keeps His promises. He is not kind of faithful to His promises. He is not usually faithful to His promises. He is always faithful in keeping His promises. Even the most unlikely of ones.

“To grant deliverance to us from the hand of our enemies.” Atheists and agnostics, doubters and deniers, the devil and his demons are all around you, trying to get you to question your faith, lead you astray and just be a plain old pain in your side. But God has already granted you deliverance from all these enemies.

“In order to show mercy to our fathers.” When people vandalize our national parks, break into our homes or harm little children, we fantasize about divine justice coming down on them. We are for quick and severe justice – but only for other people, of course. But God is always patient with us. He has shown us mercy and not treated us as our sins deserve. We should be standing before God’s judgment throne for vandalizing His world, for breaking our marriage vows, for harming our children with our words. We deserve quick and severe justice. We deserve to languish in the devil’s dark and dreary dungeon forever. But Jesus came to live for us. He came to receive our just sentence and endure our punishment. God has shown us mercy through Jesus.

“So that we are able to serve him without fear.” There are many things that we fear in this world – terrorists, dentists, doctors, carbs, cancer, death, etc. But Jesus has already rescued you from your fear. Now you are able to serve Him.

“In holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” Your past bothers you. Your guilt burdens you. Your sin weighs you down. But Jesus has already declared you holy, righteous and without sin. When you find yourself being afraid or burdened by your sin, take a deep breath and sing Zechariah’s song. You are safe. You are forgiven.

This is what you need to remember in times of doubt or despair, in times of stress and sickness. You need to look to Jesus and what He has done for you. He came to this earth to free you from fear. He suffered to release you from despair. He died to free you from being rejected by God for your sin. Jesus gives comfort and hope. He gives every reason to loosen your tongue, open your mouth, and join Charlie, Zechariah and your fellow saints in praising the Lord. Amen.