Luke 1:46-80; 7-6BC
Zechariah’s failings weren’t bad on an epoch-ending scale, and his sins aren’t good movie material.
His song of a fully-experienced faith, enhanced by great blessing from God through Holy Spirit doesn’t have a special name for its moment in church history, like Mary’s preceding ‘Magnificat’.
So really, he’s a lot more like us. Just a dumb lack of faith that you can’t excuse, flying in the face of everything God has done for and around him. Discipline from God that’s painful and unpleasant. Then, obedience in naming his child ‘John’, in the face of incomprehension and disagreement from those close to him.* Then, restoration from God without drama or excitement, leaving Zechariah closer to God at this point than ever before. A renewed sense of God’s presence and blessing that left room for only praise and gratitude.
And what of Mary’s song? A remarkable creative work from a teenager who understood her place and position far better than those who idolise her. She knew people would regard her as blessed, and that it was because “the Mighty One has done great things for me” (v.49). Not ‘through’ her, even, but “for” her.
Her role now sits as a saint in heaven for whom we should have enormous respect and admiration, and who we can look to as someone who received inordinate blessing from God and handled it with a rare grace and humility. It may be that some of us – keen not to appear to revere her too greatly – underappreciate the everyday godliness of a very young woman in the opposite of an everyday situation.
Both songs remind us that the most important person in this reading is neither Zechariah nor Mary, but the God that they’re singing to:
“God my Saviour” (v.47)
“the Mighty One” (v.49)
“the God of Israel” (v.68)
“the Most High” (v.76)
Most of us won’t be springing into spontaneous poetry-writing about
God any time soon, but God’s everyday blessings designed to bring you closer to him are worthy of great gratitude and consistent thankfulness. And that’s a change in heart that we can begin – in His strength – now.
*It was convention to name your child after a member of the family. NOT doing so here smacked of disloyalty and would have been looked down on.