Christ Set Us Free

January 2, 2022

Pastor John Hering

Luke 1:68-75

Luke 1:68-75

68 Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited us and prepared redemption for his people. 69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70 just as he said long ago through the mouth of his holy prophets. 71 He raised up salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, 72 in order to show mercy to our fathers by remembering his holy covenant, 73 the oath which he swore to Abraham our father, 74 to grant deliverance to us from the hand of our enemies, so that we are able to serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

The sweater is neatly folded and put into the drawer.  The jewelry is placed into the jewelry box.  The meat grinder is placed on the shelf. The empty boxes and once beautiful wrapping paper has been crumbled up and put into the dumpster.  Traveling is about over and everyone is back home.  As we flip the calendar from 2021 to 2022 does it seem as though the wonder and excitement of Christmas has been sucked out of the air?  But, there is a way to prolong the joy of Christmas.  The Holy Spirit inspired Zechariah the priest to record a song that teaches how to do that.  You remember him, his wife Elizabeth who had no children.  An angel spoke to Zechariah to announce the birth of John the Baptist.  This prophesy was fulfilled when the baby was born, and as soon as Zechariah named the child, Immediately Zechariah’s mouth was opened, his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God (63-64).  Just as Zechariah’s tongue was set free to talk once again, our Christmas celebration continues everyday because

Christ Sets Us Free

Since God Kept his Promises

The ministry where Zechariah served had been going on for over 2,000 years!  He sang, 68 Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel, because … 69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, …., by remembering his holy covenant, 73 the oath which he swore to Abraham our father.  Abraham lived around 2,000 BC, David around 1,000 BC, with prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Elijah sprinkled throughout this period.  They all recorded promises of God and how he kept them.  Why?  God wanted to show believers his track record.  Those who paid attention to God’s promises and fulfilments were bursting with anticipation and joy because history recorded these facts.  If God kept all these promises, he certainly would keep the big one—to send a Savior Who Sets Us Free!

Compare God’s faithfulness to human promises. This year, due to various circumstances, our family wasn’t able to gather during Christmas to open up our presents.  About a week before our planned event I started to get a little antsy, wondering when I could give my gifts to my loved ones.  That’s only days of anticipation!  What about having to wait weeks, months or even years!  Talk to someone who is depressed and lonely—they find it hard to believe that with proper help and guidance they can crawl out of the pit.  Talk to couples who have a marriage on shaky ground—they can’t imagine how long it will take to have a happy marriage is they return to God’s principles and guidelines that focus on selflessness to get them back on track.  Talk to parents who have children that have wandered from the faith—they will share the heartbreak that the promise of faithfulness at their confirmation seems to have disappeared and wondering how long it will be before they return to the Lord. While we want to trust each other, we recognize that sinful people often break their promises.  Rather, to find lasting joy, we return to God’s Promises to graciously deliver us with forgiveness of our sins, deliverance from the devil, and victory over the power of death! Zechariah sang, 72 in order to show mercy to our fathers by remembering his holy covenant, 73 the oath which he swore to Abraham our father.  God kept his covenant (gospel promise) make to Abraham to send Christ who Set Us Free!  We would expect Zechariah to sing about “My child is healthy, my wife is safe, I can talk again!” But, he sings about that which Set Him Free!  Yes, the birth of his son was wonderful, but real, lasting joy would come from the Savior.  God Kept His Promise and the Christ child was born.  Christ Sets us Free!

You know how important this is for you.  Perhaps there is a secret sin that is hanging around, an abuse of drugs or alcohol, unfaithfulness, gossip, or a dirty deed or thought.  You might be tempted to think, “Whew! Nobody knows!  At least I wasn’t caught!”  But, God knows.  He caught us.  He always does.  He should break us down like a used box and shred us like old Christmas wrapping paper, stuff us into a box and label it, “Straight to hell!”  But you have heard and believe the words Zechariah was singing about.  You repent and return to the Promises God Has Kept that Christ Sets Us Free!  This is freedom that lasts more than just a couple of days at Christmas.  It lasts our lifetime and into eternity

Since God Gives Us Power

Hundreds, perhaps thousands of people gathered outside the temple.  They are there because the priest would enter the Holy Place to waft their prayers up to heaven.  Zechariah and his assistants would carry the golden censor for incense and the golden bowl of live coals from the Altar of Burnt Offering.  In a solemn procession they would walk up the steps into the Temple, across the Holy Place to the Altar of Incense by the curtain which separated them from the Holy of Holies.  The assistants were dismissed and then Zechariah would carefully place the incense and live coals together on the Altar.  As the smoke and smell of incense filled the room Zechariah would chant and pray for the people.

This was a powerful scene. You can see him all dressed up in his priestly robes and these actions made him look awesome and important.  But, underneath was something that deflated him like a nail in a tire. Underneath the pomp and circumstance was an old man who probably had arthritic knees, weak eyes, back pain, gray hair, and shortness of breath.  And after seeing the angel, he couldn’t talk.  He was painfully aware that under all the priestly ornaments was a doubting old fool—a sinner.  Now listen to this portion of Zachariah’s song, 68 Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited us and prepared redemption for his people. 69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David. This horn was not a trumpet or trombone, but the horn of a ram!  Think of those videos of two rams butting heads.  This was raw power!  At the birth of John the Baptist Zachariah knew this signaled the birth of another son from the house of David, not the house of Levi.  This baby, the Promised Messiah, possessed raw power, the Almighty God of Power!

What a contrast!  There is Zachariah all dressed up in his impressive priestly robes but with no real power.  And there is Jesus wrapped in stripes of cloth lying in a manger and possessing all power in heaven and on earth!  And all this power was for one purpose, 74 to grant deliverance to us from the hand of our enemies.  Who is your worst enemy?  Is it the weather? Health? Driving? Relationships? Threats at work? If you are picturing anything or anyone other than the person you see in the mirror each morning you are sadly mistaken.  Maybe you beat yourself up with a sentence like this: “I can’t do this because I’m too ________ (weak, afraid, dumb, etc). Or maybe “I’m not going to do anything about it, let’s just see what happens,” when all along you know you need to say, “No” to the bad and “Yes” to the good.  The Bible speaks about the worst enemy: 18 Indeed, I know that good does not live in me, that is, in my sinful flesh. The desire to do good is present with me, but I am not able to carry it out. 19 So I fail to do the good I want to do. Instead, the evil I do not want to do, that is what I keep doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who am doing it, but it is sin living in me (Rom 7:18-20).  Our own worst enemy is the enemy within.  The Bible is clear what people deserve, but Zachariah breaks into a song about the Christ child who Gives Us the Power we need. 74 to grant deliverance to us from the hand of our enemies. We can be warned about tornadoes, doctors can help us with health issues, we can learn better driving habits and counselors can help with our relationships.  But, there are times when bad weather hits, CPR fails, car crashes occur and relationships break up.  However, Jesus grants us Powerful Deliverance From All Our Enemies!  Jesus’ deliverance never fails.

But, there’s more!  The work of the priests in the Temple may have been awe inspiring, but participation by the worshipers was passive for the most part. After watching the priests do their activities the people would go home.  I wonder how hard it was for them to connect their worship with their life? “I brought my lamb, did my religious duty.  Now it’s back to business as usual.” But, Zachariah sings about the Power of the Christ child that is radically different for our lives! 68 Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel, because … He has raised up a horn of salvation for us …. so that we are able to serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. The Power of the Christ child provides us with a new status before God.  We are forgiven and robed in Jesus’ holiness so that we stand before God declared not guilty and free to serve him.  God had made us his own kings and priests.  And what do God’s kings and priests do?  They defend the weak, they provide for the needy, they pray for people who are hurting, they share the powerful Good News of Jesus with others.

So, what is worship to you?  Is it just a passive experience?  Some might say, “I’ll come to worship and sit and listen.  If the sermon isn’t too boring I’ll be back—maybe.”  But, God does not intend for worship to be just passive, but it is intended to be a group activity.  Here God equips us and encourages us for our personal lives. God pours the Powerful Word of God into you that he wants us to spill out into your homes, classroom, work and neighborhood.   Christ Sets us Free and God Gives us the Power to be his witnesses to the world!

You might have all your Christmas presents put away, the decorations back into their boxes, and the Christmas cookies all eaten up.  But you appreciate the Christ of Christmas who turned you from slaves into sons and daughters of the King.  Love Jesus who freed you from the power of your enemies.  Rejoice over Jesus who made you’re an heir of heaven as you enjoy serving God all your days with the excitement of Christmas living in you. Jesus is the power behind your life because you know God keeps his promises.   You know the Joy of Christmas for Christ Has Set us Free!  May this joy fill your heart with edge-of-your-seat Christmas excitement every day.  Amen!

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