300: December 9, 2018
Stands in the lectionary in the place of the Psalm.
Clearly pairs with the other Gospel reading, for Zechariah’s song comes as a response to John the Baptist’s birth.
My blog post: Declare that the Dawn is Coming
John the Baptist is a common figure in the Advent story, but Zechariah is often ignored (No one ever says, “Hi Dad” at the camera).
Zech is the first man named in the Gospel of Luke - a high priest, whose wife Elizabeth was a daughter of a priest. A priest who married a PK.
Both righteous before God, blameless, and barren. No child.
Chosen to enter the sanctuary (Holy of Holies? According to Common English Bible, this is “a holy place, containing a menorah, a table for sacred bread, and a small container for burning incense.” (Common English Study Bible, p. 105 NT)
During this trip into the sanctuary, an angel appears to Zechariah, and tells him that Elizabeth “will give birth to your son and you will name him John. He will be a great joy and delight to you, and many people will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the Lord’s eyes: He must not drunk wine and liquor. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth. He will bring many Israelites back to the Lord their God… He will make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:13-17, CEB)
Zech’s response: “How can I be sure of this? My wife and I are very old.”
Gabriel: “You won’t speak until he is born.”
Zech comes out, can’t speak. People know something happened. Elizabeth gets pregnant.
When John is born, neighbors say that they should name him “Zechariah.” Z gets a tablet and writes, “His name is John” (which means God is Gracious). Then he can speak. When the neighbors hear this they wonder, “What then will this child be?”
“for he has delivered” interesting verb tense. This implies that the people are already saved - even though John is just a baby and Jesus isn’t born yet.
The salvation is present because of God’s promise in the past. Connected to Abraham. This is not a new thing that God is doing, but a part of God’s great work of salvation.
God’s promise of salvation transcends current political state.
Judah is still occupied by Rome, but Zech declares “He has brought salvation from our enemies and from the power of all those who hate us.”
They may not be delivered from Rome, but they are delivered from Rome’s power. - This is the story of Resurrection. The power of Rome, which is centered on the threat of the cross, is not enough to keep Jesus from Resurrection.
Only a few verses about John
What he does say about John is more about what he will do for God.
Be a prophet
Prepare the way
Tell people about the power of forgiveness.
Thoughts and Question
“What then will this child be?” What parent hasn’t wondered that aloud? What do you wonder about your child - or any child you care about? John was given a vision of this child’s future, but can any other child have any less of a calling? John is called to “tell his people how to be saved through the forgiveness of sins.” Can any of us not achieve this as well? Being a prophet is not about having magical powers, or being touched by angels. It is about speaking God’s truth to people who need it.
But I’m here to tell you that God rejoices no less for you than did Zechariah for his son. Zechariah so loved his son that he could glimpse him through God’s eternal eyes. God so loves you that he has laid out a path for you to follow. God has given you something that makes you uniquely you. There is something in you that transcends employment, labels, gender, race, or status. God has created you with a purpose, and is calling you to that purpose today. You were created to do no less than John once did – to prepare the way of the Lord, and “to show the people the way to salvation through the forgiveness of sins.” (Robb McCoy)
“He has granted that we would be rescued from the power of our enemies so that we could serve him without fear.”
What is the power of our enemies?
When terrorism changes our values. When we allow fear to rule our hearts and decisions. When we fear a man because he is black. Then we are allowing our enemies to have power over us. Instead, we have salvation. Salvation from what? From fear, and from the power of our enemies.
Lots could be done with Psalm 23 and the last line. “To give light to those in the shadow of death, to guide us on the path of peace.”
When do you sit in the shadow? How does Advent call us out?
This and the Immanuel passage of Isaiah 7 are the primary text that come to mind for me (Eric) during Advent
Part 1 of a larger passage Luke 3:1-18. John’s message is divided into 2 weeks- so if you want your hypocrites and vipers- just wait a week :)
Timing- Emperor Tiberius (not Augustus, Augustus was emperor from 27 BC to 14 AD, Tiberuis from 14 AD to 37). So the 15th year would be around 30 AD
v. 1-2 Who God chooses
Imagine these verses as a movie in which we see the “known world” the center of which is Rome and we slowly zoom in- but not where we expect. Who does God choose?
Emperor Tiberius - nope
Pontius Pilate - nope
Herod - nope
Philip - nope
Lysanius - nope
Annas and Caiaphas - nope
Once again God chooses the most unlikely candidate in the most unlikely place
Also consistent with the OT prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Amos, Micah, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah) which begin by seeing the prophet in a geo-political historical context
What God is doing through this nobody in the backwater of the world will affect everything- even up to the emperor
There is a foreshadowing of what is to come:
Jesus confrontations with Annas and Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate
This is not the world of a Deist, “Divine Watchmaker” God but a God who is intricately involved in the geo-political and historical messiness of humanity and Earth- albeit in completely unexpected ways
metanoia - a radical change of heart/being
“Change your whole way of thinking” - Eric Elnes interpretation of metanoia
Not a message the Kingdom of God is near, but change your way of thinking for forgiveness
Forgiveness comes from the Greek root to “Let go” (Veli-Matti KãRkkãInen, Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration.)
Forgiveness is not a simply “letting go and letting God”....or is it? Forgiveness whether accepted from God or offered to another is much more complex, but is it possible without inviting God in to pick up where we “let go”?
Message of hope to Exiles
Message of hope for those longing for salvation
Salvation necessitates change from the Status Quo - otherwise we have nothing to be saved from or for- only those who are discontent with the current state of things long for salvation
Preparing the way of the Lord - making it easy for the Messiah, the salvation of God to come- how? Repentance
Thoughts and Questions
Often we think of John message of repentance and forgiveness to be about us needing to repent and receive forgiveness, but perhaps we need to change our way of thinking into to offer forgiveness to others.
Are we able to forgive without a radical change of heart, mind and soul?
How will you repent this Advent? How will you lead your church into repentance?
“At Advent something is afoot in God’s world. There is a terrible, hopeful newness about life: terrible because it promises to overthrow all our old, comfortable, sinful ways; and hopeful for the very same reason… The texts for this day capture something of this terrible hope, this ancient newness.” (Texts for Preaching, Year C, p. 10)
Philippians quick facts (all from Anatomy of the New Testament, Seventh Edition, Augsburg Fortress Press)
One of the “Captivity Epistles” (along with Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon)
Unique in that it is only undisputed captivity epistle (other than Philemon, which is super short)
Probably a later letter (possibly last)
Tradition sets it as written from Rome, no real reason to dispute that.
Philippi was Paul’s first mission stop on his initial trip into Macedonia and Greece (first European church)
Overall tone of letter is one of encouragement, congeniality, and support.
Christ Hymn of 2:1-11 is an important piece of Pauline theology (that he didn’t create, but is quoting)
There are warnings about bad teachers
“That 1:3-11 is a literary unit is apparent. In both content and form this passage is distinct from the verses which precede and follow it. In addition, 1:3-11 has its own identity in what is now commonly referred to as “the Pauline Thanksgiving” (Fred Craddock, Interpretation: Philippians, p. 15)
Craddock proposes this section to be divided into Past, Present, and Future (which seems like a perfectly natural thing to do for Advent, which is all about what was, what is, and what is to come)
Past: verses 3-6
Two reasons for Paul's thankfulness are remembrance and partnership
He remembers the relationships and is thankful for their participation in the Gospel.
Word “all” is used several times (is it possible that there was a minority faction to whom had a strained relationship with Paul. Here, is thus reminding them of his love for all, despite past troubles)
In the midst of his suffering in jail, the memory of his relationship with the Philippians is a source of hope.
The love they have shared in the past breathes life into his present and future
Present: verses 7-8
Interesting translation note in verse 7: Who holds whom in which heart?
Either way, this describes an intense relationship, with love at its heart.
His current place in jail also provides some background to why this piece is so important.
Future: verses 9-11
“Just as Paul opened with twofold thanksgiving, he closes with twofold petition.” (Craddock, Interpretation p. 21)
That the Philippians will grow and mature in love.
That at the day of Christ they will be pure and blameless.
These petitions point to an eschatological hope.
Followers of Christ are called to grow in love, which leads to a more righteous life. Growing in love is not just about compassion, but also about justice, forgiveness, and making tough choices.
“The course and flow of God’s good work in us is seen in Paul’s prayer (Philippians 1:9-11). God’s good work begins with love (verse 9). But, Paul’s hope is that this deep and passionate commitment to love might overflow with “knowledge and insight” (verse 9). This is an appeal that their love might be right-sighted; that they might be wise and judicious in their actions, so that when the day of Christ comes they might prove to be “pure and blameless” (verse 10). Perhaps the best way to understand this is to speak of an intense and blemish-free reflection of the life and love of Christ” (Edward Pillar, Working Preacher).
Thoughts and Sermon
If Love is your theme for the week, this feels perfect. The Love of Christ is shared by Paul and the Philippians is not one that is simply a nice feeling right now. It is rooted in what has come before, and gives life to what is going to be.
“The ‘good work’ already begun is not to be reduced to what is happening in the life of the individual. The second-person pronouns used throughout the passage are all plural, suggesting that what God has begun is a communal project expressed in the corporate body of believers.”
Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Bryan Odeen for our closing music.