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Luke 1:57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son

This was the child the angel promised to Zechariah, nine months earlier, when Zechariah was serving in the temple. Everyone gathered to celebrate, and they wanted to name the baby after his father. But Zechariah and Elizabeth insisted that his name was John, since that is what the angel commanded (Luke 1:13). John means the Lord is gracious, but John’s preaching would not seem gracious at all. 

You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? . . . The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire (Matthew 3:7-10), he would say.

John’s preaching did not seem very gracious, but it was gracious, because it helped people get right with God. Comforting people who are still in their sins may appear to be gracious, but is actually ungracious, if they die and go to hell. Threatening people with the wrath of God may appear to be ungracious, but is actually very gracious, if it leads them to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. 

Luke 1:68 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. 

Zechariah was unable to speak for several months because he did not believe the angel. But when he was able to speak again, he used his voice to praise the Lord. We seldom appreciate what we have until God takes it away. If God took away everything we have, and struck us blind—but gave us back our sight tomorrow—we would be extremely thankful. We should be thankful every day for what we often take for granted. 

Luke 1:72-73 . . . to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham

Zechariah recalled God’s promise to Abraham, to make him into a great nation, and bless the world through him (Genesis 12:2-3). God also promised our first parents that he would send someone to crush the devil’s head (Genesis 3:15). And God promised David that his throne would be established forever (2 Samuel 7:16). 

These and other promises were fulfilled by Jesus Christ, who defeated Satan through his death and resurrection, is blessing the world through his gospel, and is sitting on heaven’s throne. For no matter how many promises God has made, they are Yes in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20), wrote Paul. 

Throughout the Bible, promise and fulfillment are what keep the story moving. Since Christ fulfilled so many promises the first time he came, we can be sure that he will fulfill the rest when he returns. This is a wonderful comfort in life, but especially in death. A lady who was dying called for a pastor, and said in the tiniest voice, It’s true. Tell them it’s all true.

Luke 1:76-77 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. 

Salvation and forgiveness are closely related in the Bible. In its broadest sense, salvation is from everything wrong in the world—from hurricanes to bad breath. But since everything wrong in the world is the result of sin, salvation is mostly concerned with forgiveness. That is why John the Bapatist pointed to Jesus and said, Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29). The way to be saved from our sins is by looking to the Savior who died for them.

Luke 1:78-79 [T]he rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death

When I was about sixteen years old, I went hiking in the mountains of Utah. It was early in the morning, cold and dark, and I was in a valley. But as the sun came up in the east, the light made its way down the western slope, with a sharp dividing line between the darkness and the light. 

I waited for the moment the light would get to me, and I was not disappointed when it did. Warmth, beauty and joy were instantly mine. My location had barely changed, but the difference between walking in darkness and walking in light was so distinct that I will never forget it. 

And that is how it is when we come to faith in Christ. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned (Isaiah 9:2), wrote Isaiah. And, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12), said Jesus. 

Luke 1:80 [John] lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel

Zechariah and Elizabeth were old when John was born (Luke 1:7), and may have died while he was young. This would have made John even more dependent on God. With no one else to care for, John was able to focus on God without distraction. After years of solitude, he was ready to be used by God in a brief but powerful way. 

Reflection and Review
What is salvation?
How is Jesus like the rising sun?
How does solitude help us to know God better?