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Advent: Zacharias’ Prophetic Song (Luke 1:67-79)

By Michael Milton | President of the Charlotte campus of Reformed Theological Seminary, Contributing Editor of Preaching magazine

Have you ever seen Miracle of 34th Street? It's a Christmas classic. The 1947 novel became a movie the same year, earning the author an Academy Award for the Best Original Story. The film itself was nominated for the top picture. Edmund Gwenn, who played Kris Kringle, won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. But who could ever forget the child actor, Natalie Wood, who won the hearts of viewers as Susan Walker, the little girl whose doubt in the existence of Santa Claus is transformed by her association with Edmund Gwenn's Kris Kringle.

"Miracle on 34th Street stands beside It's a Wonderful Life as one of the two most enduring of America's holiday movies," says Frank Beaver, professor of film and video studies at the University of Michigan. "As with Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street draws its continuing appeal by reaffirming ideas of faith in a modern, often-cynical world."1

"Reaffirming faith in a modern, often-cynical world" is what our business is all about as believers—not a faith in St. Nicholas or Father Christmas—but in the truth of the enchantment and wonder of the Almighty God of the universe who came to mankind as a Babe in a manger. So many today don't buy it—or at least they seemed unmoved by the reality of Christmas in the way they live their lives. The net effect of a lack of faith in Christ is to turn off the color to life; to become like little Susan Walker in Miracle on 34th Street, whose childhood was dour, expressionless, unromantic, and hopeless.

Unbelief turns off the color and turns down the sound of life as it was meant to be lived. But, faith in Christ, and faith in the God who changes things, who interrupts our lives with the glorious news of salvation by repentance and faith in Jesus, turns on the sound, lights up the soul, and causes mute men to shout for joy!

Just ask Zechariah.

In Luke 1:67-79 we have what is often called the Benedictus, from the first words of the prophecy: Benedictus esto Dominus Deus Israelis, meaning, "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel." And in this Song of Zechariah, which is really a Holy Spirit inspired praise and prophecy, there is enough Gospel to turn the lights on in our lives.

Let's look at Zechariah's Song. As we examine this Song in light of the Singer's life, we might remark that this Song is:

The Song of a Heart Set Free (vv. 59-68)

Previously His Heart Was Hardened by Unbelief

The father of John the Baptist, the holy prophet of God who preached repentance and faith and announced the arrival of Messiah, was a "righteous" man, "walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless" (Luke 1:6). The old priest and his wife, Elizabeth, had no children and had been praying for a child. But, time and age seem to conspire together to close the door on that. He was a good man. But his faith was suspect. In a dramatic scene, while Zechariah was ministering in the Temple, an Angel of the Lord told him that his barren wife, Elizabeth, would have a child—not just any child, but a child named John whose birth would signal a new day of rejoicing for many.

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