Now while Zechariah was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” – Luke 1:8-17
There are those moments…in fact I’m enjoying one right now. I’m listening to some beautiful Christmas music. Performed by the Piano Guys, it’s a beautiful blend of harmonies, melodies, instruments, sentiments, and Christmas truth and grace. It washes my soul. Makes me smile.
I’m not certain Zechariah felt this way as he reflected on the message of the angel, and later when John was born. The message of the angel – expressing the destiny of their soon-to-be-born son – would make most parents bask in their present experience of God’s goodness. Think of it: many will rejoice at John’s birth, he will be great before the Lord, be filled with the Holy Spirit, turning many people to the Lord their God, going in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared. No wonder the angel tells Zechariah: you will have joy and gladness!
A closer look at John’s life, however, might make you wonder. John lives a reclusive and extremist life in the desert. He does not enjoy wine and has a rather strange diet. He does announce, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” He leaps in his mother’s womb even before he is born at the sound of the Mary’s voice and in recognition of the presence of the Son of God. His end, however, is not so glorious. Imprisoned. Doubt-plagued. Beheaded.
When the lines fall for us in good and pleasant places we do well to thank God. When the lines cross into dark valleys of distress, pain, disappointment, and trouble, we must remember the Giver not just the gifts he gives. God is good. He is doing something new in Zechariah’s life. But that is part of a greater thing he is doing in all of our lives.
God is breaking into history, coming to be with us. To redeem us. To save us. To die for us. To rise from the dead for us. To come again on the Last Day for us. On that Great Day the lines will fall in eternally blessed and good places for those who look to Jesus as their Savior and Lord. Makes me smile to think of it. Come, Lord Jesus!