Comfort of God
Have You Found True Comfort?
The Second Wednesday of Advent
Isaiah 40: 1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins.
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.
Today's sermon is based upon the Gospel of the Day, from Luke chapter 17, specifically the 15th and 16th verses.
INRODUCTION: Did you notice in your bulletin this evening that tonight’s service centers around the title “Zachariah’s Song?” Does that seem a little odd to you? We know that Marry has a song; you heard of that last week. Mary’s song is famous isn’t it? We even have a great church Latin word for it, “The Magnificat!” Wow, that even sounds important. But what is all this about Zacharias Song? Glad you asked! Zacharias song is really words of prophecy that God spoke through Zacharias concerning a question that was asked about his son, John the Baptist. Verse 66 in our Gospel lesson is where we find this question: "What then is this child going to be?" The answer to this question is what provided great comfort to Zacharias, his wife, and latter their son John.
What gives you comfort? Maybe it’s your favorite pair of shoes or a worn in sweat-shirt or your favorite easy chair? For some it’s a favorite food that Mom used to make or maybe a good book and some peace and quiet. I have a friend who swears that he finds comfort only at the seashore, and then I have a few acquaintances who say that there is nothing like a good stiff drink or two to bring real comfort. All these things are ways that Christians and non-Christians alike turn to in order to relax and get comfortable, but…
Do these things really bring comfort during times of illness, death or crisis? They didn’t for Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, but he did find comfort. Tonight, I would like to examine a period in Zacharias’ life and his true source of comfort and then see if you and I can turn their as well.
I. Zacharias’ Song is about his source of Comfort: The story of Zacharias is the beginning of John the Baptist’s story, and it is part of our Gospel lesson for this evening. We entered our Gospel lesson on the eighth day of life for baby John, who would be called “the Baptizer.” It is his circumcision day and that was a big event in the life of a Jewish male; in ceremony, it was much like our sacrament of baptism. It took place in the village synagogue. I imagine that this day was a bright early morning, and the dew was still wet upon the shrubs and trees. Walk with me in your minds eye, up the stone steps and into the stone building that was the local synagogue.
As you enter, your eyes have not adjusted to the dark. You are drawn to torches around a stone table, and you see a group of people gathered around that table. You soon realize that this is the family of Zacharias the priest, and you are here to witness his son’s circumcision. There’s his wife, Elizabeth, boy she sure is old looking, and then you remember that it is because she really is old. What a miracle story that is. Here is a woman unable to conceive throughout her childbearing years and now, well somehow she had this baby. You feel happy for her but you also remember her shame as well; she’s been the source of gossip in this town for years. But now, well look at this, no one can deny that she has done well by giving good old Zacharias a baby boy! You remembered last month hearing the strange story about this little baby jumping for joy when Elizabeth’s cousin Mary came to visit. Elizabeth said her baby was excited because Mary was also pregnant, but not just with any normal baby but with the Messiah! As your eyes begin to grow accustomed to the light, you find Zacharias, the proud father. He’s been literally silent for the last nine months. You heard that something happened to him nine months ago when he was performing his duties as priest within the Lord’s temple. Elizabeth said that the angel Gabriel came to him and told him that a son would soon be on the way. Zacharias doubted the Lord’s Word, so the angel said that since he would not accept the Word of the Lord, no words would be heard from his mouth either, that is not until the circumcision of his baby.
‘Wow, what a day,’ you think, ‘things couldn’t get any more stranger than this!’ But then you hear the Rabbi begin the ceremony by stating that the baby’s name will be the same as his father Zacharias, when all of a sudden Elizabeth screams out, "No! He is to be called John.” The Rabbi quickly turns to Zacharias and says that there are no Johns in your family, what is this woman talking about?! Zacharias signals for a writing tablet and at the same time he writes and screams out, "His name is John." So Zacharias gets his voice back just as promised and the baby gets a surprise name that’s a good one too! You see, John means, “The Lord is faithful.” God has been faithful to Elizabeth and given her a son, and he has been faithful to Zacharias when he promised that his voice would return after the boy was named John.
Now, with his voice in the best form that it has ever been, Zacharias begins to sing a song about his child, but it is really a song about what the Lord will do first through his son, and then through Mary’s Son, the Son of God, the Messiah. It is a song of hope, and it is a song of comfort and it is a song of prophecy!
“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”