MESSAGE FOR CHRISTMAS EVE 2008 FROM LUKE 1:67
afternoon, in the wake of all these great Christmas hymns, it seems appropriate to preach from a song in the Bible
related to the birth of Christ.
There are two such songs connected with
the birth of Christ in Luke chapter one. The first
is Mary’s song which she uttered to her relative
In verse 67, we read this song, “And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, 68"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people 69and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; 72to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, 73the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us 74that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”
that although Zechariah is standing in the temple at his own son’s circumcision, most of his words are devoted
not to his son, but to the Savior his son will precede. Only two verses are given to his own son, the rest is all about Jesus—the One who would
calls this soon-to-be born Messiah, “a
horn of salvation for us.” In verse
71 he explains further, saying that this deliverance will be a “salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.” That tells
us that this Savior is going to be powerful enough to deliver his people from their enemies. Later on, Paul tells us that our true enemies—those who hate us most intensely are not human,
not flesh and blood, but we struggle against “the
rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil
in the heavenly realms.” Zechariah says by the Holy Spirit, “this Savior is more than a match for those enemies.” We know
that with one twitch of his horn on
This obviously does not mean by extension that those who have been saved from the power and penalty of sin will have easy lives. The word translated “salvation” has a two-fold meaning. First, it means deliverance and ultimately we are delivered completely from our spiritual enemies—taken out of their sphere. But the word “salvation” also carries with it the idea of “preservation.” At times, God allows the spiritual battle we wage to go on with white hot intensity. In those times, we can bank on the promise that he will save us not FROM the battle, but IN THE MIDST of it by preserving us through it.
In the next two sections of this hymn, Zechariah tells us WHY Jesus would bring that salvation in his first advent. The first reason is in verse 72 and that is, “to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham.” Let’s look at the first part of that verse. It says one reason Christ came to bring salvation from our enemies and from those who hate us is to “show mercy to the fathers.” The word, “fathers” means believing Jews and it often refers to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The question is--how does Christ, coming as a baby 2000 years after Abraham, show mercy to him and those others who preceded Christ? We can understand how Christ’s salvation shows mercy to first century believers and to future believers like us, but how does the first advent of Jesus show mercy to the fathers like Abraham?
Part of the answer to that question rests on the fact that the Bible teaches only one way
of salvation in both the Old and New Testaments. We mustn’t
believe a fairly common but very dangerous misperception. That is—the
way of salvation in the Old Testament under the Old Covenant was through the law--by people being good enough for
God as they obeyed his law and earned their heavenly reward. Whereas—in
the New Testament, God saves people by grace through faith rooted in his Son’s death on the cross. That is contrary to Scripture and attacks the gospel, which holds that salvation was, is,
and always will be by grace through faith. Salvation
in both Testaments is given to undeserving sinners by grace through faith and the object of that faith under BOTH
the Old and New covenants is Jesus Christ. In the
Old Testament, those who truly belonged to God looked forward in
faith to Christ and his saving work, while those who are genuinely God’s children after the cross, look back with faith back on Christ. Listen
to what Hebrews 11:13 teaches as it speaks of Old Testament believers like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah. “These
all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar…”
Look 12 verses later, where the author
of Hebrews describes Moses’ decision to leave the household of Pharaoh to live among God’s people. Remember, Moses lived 1500 years before Jesus was born. Yet we
read of Moses in Hebrews, “He chose
to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 He
for the sake of Christ as of greater
value than the treasures of
“For the sake of Christ” –do you hear how the author looks back at Moses and his faith and says the object of his faith was Christ? In His day, Moses didn’t know the specific historical details of Jesus’ life, but he was looking to him in faith for his salvation. Jesus says to the Jews in John 8:56, “Your Father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” Whatever else that means; it means Abraham was saved by faith looking forward to Christ. When Zechariah says in Luke chapter one that one of the reasons why God brought salvation through Christ is to “show mercy to our fathers,” that is perfectly consistent with the Old Testament. The reason is because Christ saved not only his believing generation and the ones to follow. He also provides God’s merciful salvation for the fathers—God’s people who had come before Christ.
you are here today and you trust in anything for your salvation other than the shear grace of God received by faith
in Christ, you are walking on a rotted, wooden bridge that in the last day will collapse under the weight of your
sin and leave you without hope.
Tragically, people place their hope for
salvation in many things will never bear up under the colossal weight of our sin. God has
called us to live our lives with him at the absolute center—living in all ways for him. That’s
why he created us.
In our sin, we instead live mostly for
ourselves and nothing we can do could ever satisfy the demand of God’s holy justice on our sin. People look to their baptism—baptism never saved anyone. Neither
does church attendance, or being a good person who does nice things for others. Those could
never hold the weight of your sin.
There is only one thing that will bear
the weight of our sins and enable us to cross over the bridge to heaven—that will save us from the eternal penalty
That is-- Christ alone and what he has
done for us by dying for us and paying the penalty for our many sins. He bore
their penalty we deserved when he died as our substitute on the cross of
As Zechariah foretells Christ will do for “the fathers” who came before, he also mentions
another reason for the salvation God provided in Christ. A second
reason God provided Christ as our salvation was to show how faithful he is in keeping his promise to Abraham. He had promised Abraham that through his offspring “all the nations on earth will be blessed.”
God gave Christ as the Horn of salvation
to put on display his faithfulness to fulfill the promise he had made 2000 years earlier to Abraham. That little baby born in
Now that we are so far away from Christ’s first advent, we don’t need to question whether God will be faithful to fulfill his promise to return. He fulfilled his promise to Abraham through Christ and that is a sure sign He will absolutely fulfill his promise to us that THERE WILL BE a second advent when Christ will return for His bride, the church-- made up of people who have looked to him in faith. We may grow impatient for his second coming just as the children of Abraham did for his first advent, but First Thessalonians 5:24 says, “The One who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” Christ is the horn of our salvation—our mighty Savior who was sent to bring salvation first, to show mercy to the fathers and second, to display the faithfulness of God’s promises. That’s two reasons for his being sent for our salvation. A third and final reason is found in verse 74 of Zechariah’s song in Luke chapter one. He says this reason is, “74that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear.”
Another reason God sent his Son Jesus is so we can serve him without fear. Fear and anxious thoughts are huge temptations to sin for most of us. For many people, fear is one of the main controlling factors in their life and some don’t even realize it. Too often, our relationships are grounded more in fear than in love. We feel a need to say a loving, but confrontational word to someone, but we back away because we are afraid of how they might respond. Fear and unbelief shuts our mouths—Zechariah is proof of that. Some people just scare us in general. They put us on edge when we are around them. Perhaps they are, in our opinion, too emotional or too intense or too angry or too smart or too unpredictable and so when we are around them, what controls our relationship to them—what dictates our response too them is our fear. We avoid them. Or, we walk on eggshells around them putting every syllable under a microscope before we speak it so as not to offend. Perhaps out of our fear, we try to impress them. Instead of us being held together by bonds of love as the Scriptures call us, fear oppressively lashes us together. For many, fear has had its hold on them for so long; the paralyzing knot in their stomach feels normal. Let me tell you—if you are in Christ, God has set you free from fear.
When that describes us, we need to believe the gospel as it is spelled out in the song of Zechariah. He says one reason Christ came to bring salvation to us is to “grant us 74that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear.” If you have placed your trust in Christ, the only enemies that should command rational fear—God’s holy wrath and sin and death have been taken care of. And the omnipotent, absolutely sovereign Lord of the Universe has become…your Father who has pledged to care for you. That’s the truth of the gospel. Christ came to deliver us from our fear. When we fear, we are showing that we don’t believe the gospel. The perfect, saving love of Christ conquers our fear. John says in First John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” If you have placed your trust in Christ, there is no reason to cower in fear because the wrath of God has been satisfied as he took our punishment on the cross. For God’s children, his love has displaced all need for fear. Do you believe this?
Another enemy Christ came to defeat is death and the fear of death is the mother of all fears. Fear of dying is at the root of many of our fears. People are afraid of heights or snakes or spiders because, as foolish as it may sound, they fear for their lives because they are petrified of death. That’s behind many of our fears. We don’t want to take a step of faith because it might all end in disaster and we would ultimately die. If you spend some serious time methodically tracing back many of your fears to their source, as silly as it may sound, at the root, we often fear death. But this need not be so because Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he [Christ] too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death---that is, the devil—15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Satan no longer holds the power of death because Christ’s death liberated us from the power of sin that brings death. Through His blood, he broke down the door of sin’s dungeon, which held us in captivity as we awaited the judgment of God. He freed us to live as forgiven, death-overcoming saints. For the believer, death has been transformed from a black hole pulling us to hell, to a gateway to heaven.
Do we claim this glorious promise that because Christ came, we can be free to serve God without fear? This is part of the reason God sent Christ as our mighty Savior! Are we appropriating this glorious blessing of God? When we live in fear, we are impugning Christ because we are communicating that His powerful salvation wasn’t quite powerful enough to set us free from fear. Second Timothy 1:7 says, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity [or, fear] but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” If you have never placed your trust in Christ for the salvation from the wrath your sin deserves, then do that today. May God give us the grace to know, claim and walk in all the blessings provided by Christ, the Horn of our salvation.
Page last modified on 12/24/2008
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