January 03, 2016

Rev. Bernt P. Tweit

Old Testament Lesson; Genesis 17:1-7

Epistle Lesson; Galatians 4:4-7

Sermon Text; Luke 1:68 – 75

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, as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath that He swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.

These are Your Words, Heavenly Father. Lead us in the way of truth. Your Word is truth.


How did you celebrate the birth of your first child? Or, how would you celebrate the birth of your first child? Did you hand out cigars to your friends? Did you call your family? Did you send out a Face-book message, or send a tweet? How did you, or how would you celebrate the birth of your first child?

Well, today we are looking at the birth of a child to an elderly couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth. They were old. 'They were carrying AARP cards!' But here, God grants them a child!

Well, before we look at the birth of this child, I want to back up earlier, to Luke chapter one, to remind us of how we got to that point. There are things that are all very familiar to us. Luke chapter one is a pretty long chapter, but in the beginning of Luke, chapter one, the birth of John the Baptist is foretold.

       -Zechariah and Elizabeth were from the line of Aaron. Aaron was the priestly line.

       -Here, Zechariah was a priest, and it was his priestly division that was in Jerusalem, giving offerings to the Lord.

       -He was selected by lot to be the one going into the temple that day, to offer up sacrifices.

       -An angel appeared to him. It was the angel Gabriel. He announced to Zechariah that he would be a father. He is old, but he is going to be a father.

       -Zechariah asks, “How can this be?” He is speaking words of doubt.

       -Then, he can't speak. God silences him. Zechariah wouldn't speak for the next ten months.

Well, right after that is when the birth of Jesus is foretold. It goes forward six months. John the Baptist is six months older than Jesus.

       -The angel Gabriel comes to Mary, and announces to her that she is going to be the mother of the Savior of the world. Well, when the angel announced it to Zechariah, it fulfilled what Isaiah said about one preparing the way for Jesus, one preparing the way for the Messiah. In Isaiah, chapter 40 it says,

“Prepare the way of the Lord.”

That is what John would do.

Well, when the angel said this to Mary, it was fulfilling what Isaiah said about the promise of the Savior coming through a virgin.

“The virgin will be with child,

and give birth to a Son,

and give Him the name Immanuel.”

       -After Mary gets this news, she goes to her cousin Elizabeth. The Bible tells us they visited each other. When they first meet each other at the door, they were standing belly to belly, and John the Baptist leapt in the womb of Elizabeth. He had come in contact with his Savior, Jesus, who had been conceived by the Holy Spirit inside of the virgin Mary. John leaped for joy.

       -Mary stays with Elizabeth and Zechariah for three months.

       -Now, Elizabeth is nine months pregnant with John the Baptist. The Bible tells us Mary leaves, and then some time right after that, John is born.

Mary sang a song, when it was announced to her that she would be the mother of the Savior of the world. And, now that John the Baptist is born, it is Zechariah who sings a song. It is known as the Benedictus. We just sang it. Hymn 275. He was so happy that he wanted to give praise, and blessing to God for what He had just done. Now, consider this. The last words Zachariah had spoken before he was silenced were words of doubt. “How can this be?” Now, the words he is about to say are words of praise, or words of blessing.

Have you ever been with anybody who hasn't been able to speak for awhile, and they are able to speak for the first time? They usually have a lot to say, don't they? What Zechariah has to say is important, but also consider this. God had been silent for four hundred years. There are four hundred years between The Old Testament, and The New Testament. The last time God had spoken was through Malachi, prophesying in The Old Testament.

Four hundred years is a long period of time, isn't it? But oftentimes, it is hard for us to understand that period of time. So, think of it this way. We are in the year 2016. What happened back in 1616? That is a long time ago. The closest thing we can come up with is the year 1620, when the pilgrims came over, and landed on Plymouth Rock. That was a long time ago.

       -Well, here we have Zechariah prophesying for the first time in four hundred years. The Holy Spirit came upon Zechariah, and Zechariah is now foretelling about what is going to happen. Zechariah is a proud papa. He is holding John the Baptist in his arms. While he is looking into the eyes of his son, here is what he says about our Savior, Jesus. I am going to pick out a few words from our text, this morning. One of the things he says, as he is looking at his son, who will prepare the way for Jesus was that God has come and visited His people. God has come and “has visited” His people.

Now, who visits you? Who comes and visits you? Probably it is family, neighbors, and friends who come to visit you. Notice what Zechariah is saying. He is saying God has come and visited us. What Zechariah is doing here is prophesying that God would come in the flesh, and fulfilling what our Epistle Lesson for today said.

“But, when the fullness of time had come,

God sent forth His Son,

born of a woman,

born under law,

to redeem those who were under law.”

God has come, and He has visited us. He is Immanuel. He is God with us.

Not only has God come to visit us, but God has also come and redeemed us.

What does the word 'redeem' mean? It means 'to buy back'. Think of it from this perspective. Let's talk about 'a', 'b', and 'c'. 'a' is a prisoner of war to 'b'. Under the laws of war, 'b' can detain 'a' as a prisoner of war. But 'c' comes on the scene. 'c' offers 'b' a ransom to release 'a' from prison. 'c' offers a price that 'b' accepts and ‘a’ is set free.

Well, you and I are 'a'. We are prisoners because of our sin. It is 'b', God's Law, that is detaining us lawfully, because of our sin.

God's Law is holy.

God's Law is just.

So, here you and I are detained under God's Law, because of our sin. God, who loves you guys so much, in His mercy did what?

He offered a ransom.

And so, God who is 'c', offered a ransom to His own Law, so that we would be set free from our sin. The ransom God paid was the blood of His own Son.

In the Gospel of Matthew, about Jesus it says,

“Jesus did not come to be served,

but to serve,

and give His life as a ransom for many.”

In the Epistle of the book of Romans, talking about that ransom it says,

“We are justified freely by God's grace,

through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Jesus is that ransom price. God presented Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood.

And so here, you and I who are 'a', prisoners, because of our sin, held captive by the Law have been set free, because of the ransom price God paid, through the blood of His Son, to free us from our sin.

God has visited us.

He has redeemed us.

And also, He has provided a horn of salvation for us.

Now, what is this “horn of salvation” talking about, that Zechariah sings in his song, this song of praise, or this song of blessing? Well, a horn is a symbol of strength. A horn is an image of power. And so, think about it this way. If you were to have a mascot for a sport's team, would you rather want the mascot to be a fighting hippopotamus, or a fighting rhinoceros? Well, a hippopotamus seems wimpy, even though they are not. We would probably pick the rhinoceros, and why? Because of the horn. The horn gives it an image of power and strength. That is what “the horn of salvation” that Zechariah is bringing up in his song. He is talking about, really referencing what the psalmist says in Psalm 18, about all of these things it says about the Lord.

“The Lord is my rock,

my fortress,

my deliverer.

My God is my rock in whom I take refuge.

He is my shield,

and the horn of my salvation.

My stronghold.”
And so, here, God not only has visited us. Not only has God redeemed us. But here he is also the “horn of salvation”, his strength, this power, and might.

God has come to do what He promised to do, going all the way back to Abraham, which is a fulfillment of our Old Testament Lesson for today. God made a covenant with Abraham. When God makes a covenant, He keeps His covenant. He made that covenant with Abraham two thousand years before Jesus came.

And here we are now, sitting four thousand years after Abraham, and the covenant God kept with Abraham is a covenant God keeps with you. God has sent His “horn of salvation”, Jesus, to save us.

Now, it wouldn't happen until 33 years after Zechariah sang this song, but Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit. And he prophesied about what would happen in the future.

       -Jesus, the Savior, would be born in just a few months.

       -Jesus, the Savior, would grow up living the perfect life.

       -Jesus, the Savior, would take that life of perfection to the cross, where He would make full, and complete payment for all of our sins.

We are forgiven.

We have been redeemed.

We have been saved, because God has visited us.

So, what now is our response to what God has done for us? Here we are in a brand new year. We have turned over the calendars. The old year is behind us, and a new year is in front of us. Here, all of 2016 lies before us.

What is our response to what God has done for us?

Zechariah gives us the response, when he says,

“...we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,

might serve Him without fear,

in holiness and righteousness

before Him in all our days.”

And so, dear friends of Christ, look at what God has done for us. He has visited us. He has redeemed us. He saved us. Let's serve Him without fear, in all righteousness and holiness in this brand new year that lies before us.

Just as Zechariah sang in a psalm of praise, or a hymn of praise, let us sing together with a hymn of thanksgiving!