“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David.
Zechariah was a village priest with a barren wife.
To be barren, in those days, was considered to be a curse from God, because of how important children were to several aspects of life. Nowadays it is not uncommon for women to say, “I don’t think I want to have children” – but if a woman were to say this in the ancient world, those around her would be taken back and say, “What? Do you have a death wish?”
Children were necessary economically, to have more workers in your family business, boys in particular were necessary for community security, and most importantly, children were necessary for personal security: in a society with no social welfare system and no social security, one was completely dependent on family and friends to take care of you in old age. Women in particular were at risk, because men had lower life-expectancy, so it was likely that they would live the final years and perhaps decades of their lives as widows, and if they didn’t have children, then their future was very uncertain and scary, because there was no guarantee that someone would be there to care for them and provide for them in old age.
So you can image how excited a woman like Elizabeth would be to find out that though she had been barren for years, now, in some way, advanced in years though she be, God had allowed her to conceive a son.
You can imagine how a man like Zechariah, the village priest, his life always in the spotlight of public scrutiny, must have been overjoyed to hear that finally his wife was pregnant! After years of people whispering and wondering what was wrong in his home that had caused God to “curse” them by not giving them a baby… People can be cruel, and you can imagine the relief and the sense of justification that came with the news that they would finally have a baby.
When Zechariah first got the news that he would have a son, he refused to believe it. It seemed impossible to him that this could actually happen, and as a result of his unbelief, God made him lose his voice for the duration of his wife’s pregnancy.
But when Zechariah finally got his voice back, after months of not being able to speak, and having to write things on a tablet in order to communicate, what was the first thing he did? Did he complain, that God had taken away his voice for months? No, HE SANG! He sang a song of rejoicing and praising God.
And what’s most interesting about Zechariah’s song is this: he doesn’t sing for joy primarily because he got his voice back, nor does he sing because his reproach has been taken away with the birth of his son. No, Zechariah’s song in Luke 1:67-89 is all about the Messiah!
It is commonly known an Zechariah’s Prophecy, but it is in the form of a song which he sang. The thing that set Zechariah’s heart on fire, was the idea that God was sending the Messiah – Jesus! Before Zechariah even mentions his own son – who would have an incredibly important role to play as the forerunner to the Messiah – John the Baptist – first Zechariah sings about Jesus, who at this point was still in the womb. And he says: “Blessed be the Lord, for he has VISITED and redeemed his people.”
The coming of Jesus is the visitation of God to the world to redeem his people.
This is the message of Christmas, and Zechariah’s song – one of the first Christmas songs ever sung – was all about that: The visitation of God to this world to bring redemption.