The Dad who learnt not to box God in

Here’s Part 2 of my Christmas 2021 sermon:

2nd Trimester: Dumb Dad bursts forth in benediction (Luke 1:57-80)

Luke doesn’t have us follow Mary home…but instead has us stay with Elizabeth and Zechariah for the birth of John the Baptist.

Zechariah had also had angel Gabriel turn up and announce he was going to be a Dad, but Zechariah was an old man for whom such things were just too ridiculous. Gabriel wasn’t impressed with such a dismissal and so gave him the sign: You won’t be able to speak until all this takes place.

Which all provides the background for the naming of John here in verses 57-66.

What comes through strongly in this section is just how differently God likes to do things. And even the very naming of the baby captures this.

The birth of this baby brought great excitement to all the neighbourhood. Now such celebration is generally wonderful but neighbours can be a little presumptuous and over-bearing. There’s lot of rejoicing…Lizzy has had a baby…but when they all came to the 8th day, the day of circumcision…the cry going around was ‘come and see cute little Zack’ – it’s a boy – Zechariah. 

Mum’s not happy with that: no, he shall be called John!

They all look at her with some pity – poor Elizabeth…she’s still feeling the effects of the labour. Doesn’t even know what her son’s name is to be. Listen dear…there’s no one by that name in the family tree. But she is adamant…and so everyone turns to ‘dumb (literally) Dad’

Zechariah Snr – what do you want him to be named? It’s your call…little Zack is surely what you want.

There are all the charades – they made signs (might also have been deaf!) – struggle of communication… bring the writing tablet… etc…

Finally, dumb Dad writes: ‘his name is John’.

They’re all amazed…wondering…

And what’s more…immediately that happened – Zechariah began speaking: and it is all praise.

Bursts forth in prophesy: the ‘Benedicat’

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people…’

And speaks of his son’s role in ‘preparing the way for the Lord’.

What a way for a baby to be named! Isn’t it all so unusual and mysterious. Certainly had everyone around talking and discussing what had happened. There is no question that this is no ordinary birth – and that left people with an awe and fear

Read 1:65-66 “And fear came on all their neighbours. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What then will this child be? For the hand of the Lord was with him.”

So closes the 2nd trimester.

But before move on – press the pause button on what happens here. 

Recently, with our kids I watched (again) the film ‘The Italian Job’. Involves a large robbery – and there is a scene in which the thieves prior to the theft ask each other: what will they do with the money? How will they spend it? Each one shares their longing, and then come to the last who is also the ‘traitor’ of the group. And he has no answer…and the film goes on to show that what he ends up doing is just copying the other ideas. Theme comes home: evil has no creativity, no originality.

But that is not the case with the God of Israel. Not with the story of the birth of the forerunner to the Messiah. Here’s how Dale Davis expresses it:

“Doesn’t this text tell us something about God himself, namely that he is so interesting and fascinating? Of course, you won’t see any section in theology books on ‘the fascination of God’ or run into thirty pages discussing His unguessable and interesting ways. We don’t see material like this in any systematic theology books…but that’s still no excuse for not seeing it in the biblical text.” (p 39)

What do we see here in this account of the birth and naming of John the Baptist?

“God does things with a little spice; He is not caught in the conventional; He is not stuck in a rut. Which is why He is so refreshing.”

For us today: let us not box God into a framework that simply is not biblical. Yes, there is continuity…with the promises of God to Abraham, and the Messianic promise to David. But…the manner in which God works out his kingdom purposes – filled with creativity and originality.

Reference Book: Luke 1-13 by Dale Ralph Davis (2021)

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