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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
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.” – Luke 1:67-79
We were sitting in the cafeteria of the Towers dormitory. I was nervous and didn’t really want to make the call. But I was with a pastor whom I was training in the Kennedy Evangelism method. We had arranged to meet a girl who lived in the dorm there. We were to share the gospel message with her. She never showed, but we did manage to engage another student who was hanging out there. I was in college at that time.
The Kennedy Evangelism method had as its centerpiece two spiritual questions:
- If you were to die tonight, have you come to the place in your spiritual life that you know you would go to heaven?
- If you were to die tonight and Jesus would ask you, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” What would you say?
Two challenging questions to be sure. And helpful, possibly, to focus a spiritual conversation. But there are other ways to do this. Perhaps they are even better. You might ask someone, “What do you think are the great problems of the world?” That could be an open door into a deeply spiritual conversation. In fact, that question gets to the core of what Zechariah mentions twice in this canticle.
He speaks of God who “has raised up a horn of salvation for us.” He also prophecies how John, his son, would “give knowledge of salvation to his people.” Salvation is a theme of Zechariah’s song. He uses the word twice, and references being saved or delivered twice more. Key to all that is that salvation is more than an entrance into heaven – good as that may be.
Salvation is being saved from something. From our enemies. From the hand of those who hate us. From the consequences of our sin: death and darkness. From eternal death, despair, and subjugation to Satan’s evil whims and ways. This is what God has done by sending Jesus. And John, Zechariah’s son, will be Jesus’ forerunner to prepare the way for the coming morning of God’s love and grace.
So what would you number as the world’s greatest problems? War? Poverty? Human trafficking? Godless leaders? Human rights? Social injustice? Immoral political leaders? Financial inequities? To every one of these problems Jesus’ grace and truth speaks. He is the prince of peace. He lifts up the poor and needy. He speaks truth to power. He points us to faithful suffering if need be and promises ultimate relief in the resurrection and the life of the world to come.
The world is a mess. And Jesus has come to redeem the world and all who are in it. He brings life and salvation. Thanks be to God!