Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas reverberations

At the time of Christmas you will no doubt hear in one avenue or another the basic Christmas story. You might get a commercial version from television where they throw together the story from all four gospels and if we are fortunate there might be some truth given.
And no doubt in the paper or on the Internet you will see some pseudo intellectual agnostic claiming that the Christian faith is a lot of bunkum. That it's on par with the stork delivering babies or with fairies at the bottom of the garden.

However, even given the availability of the Biblical Christmas story it so easy to miss what each Gospel writer is trying to teach, and therefore what God is saying!

In Luke's Gospel the lead up to the birth of Jesus, had been prepared with fan fare that no Hollywood director could match, and that's not unsurprising is it? We tend to think that the arrival of the birth of the Lord Jesus in some insignificant town in Israel was a quiet affair, that the rest of Israel went on about their normal daily routine without too much awareness of whether God was about to do something big.
But Luke's preamble to the birth of Jesus, his talking about the birth of John the baptist isn't just preparing the historical scene for Jesus or telling us that the great john the baptist was actually related to Jesus, it's far more than that.
See how Luke tells us that Zechariah was a Priest chosen at that time to burn incense in the Temple. This isn't just some irrelevant bit of information telling you of the importance of Zechariah. What we need to understand is what David Guzik so aptly speaks of in his commentary on the passage.
The incense Priest had a special duty to perform once he appeared on the steps of the Temple. He would "raise his hands and bless the people with the blessing from Numbers 6:24-26." The people would respond by saying, "Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting." After this had been done the Levites would perform their duty, that of singing praises to God which would start with a blast from silver trumpets, then a priest would strike a cymbals and the choir of Levites would begin the Psalm of the day.

Given this background, can you for a moment imagine the scene when Zechariah appears and is unable to speak, unable to declare the Aaronic blessing from Numbers 6?

All the people could get out of Zechariah was that he had seen a vision whilst in the Temple and Zechariah remained unable to speak. Do you think that this dramatic event would have not have been the discussion over the dinner tables that night, or in the Temple courts and between friends and travellers alike? Of course this is front page news, the sort we reserve for tragedies such as Sept 11.

As Luke tells us in 1:66 "Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, "What then is this child going to be?" For the Lord's hand was with him.

After 400 years of silence from God, of no prophet from God for Israel, suddenly a Priest in the Temple has a vision and is struck speechless. And he remains speechless until the birth of his son, John the Baptist. John who appears like an Old Testament Prophet! Who calls Israel to repentance!

So don't let anybody tell you that the events around Jesus' birth were insignificant. They are anything but. God gave plenty of warnings about the significance of the coming of Jesus, of the Messiah long awaited, who as John the Baptist pointed to, is truly the lamb of God, whom we know dies as a sacrifice for sin.

God bless all my brothers and sisters in Christ, at this special time of rejoicing our Saviour's birth.


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