I don’t know about you, but fear often impedes my ministry. Fear of rejection. Fear of saying the wrong thing. Fear of giving up too much. But, Christmas should change that. At least that’s what a priest said. Zechariah “was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 2:67) and—after being mute for about nine months—God Himself spoke through him.
Zechariah’s words challenge us: our God is trustworthy and merciful. Therefore, serve Him.
Because Zechariah was a priest of the temple of the Lord and “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes” (Luke 1:6), he provides a unique bridge from the Old Covenant to the New. He lived with an ever-present awareness of what was declared by “the holy prophets from of old.” He was always mindful of the the promises made to the “fathers,” and “the oath that [the Lord] swore to our father Abraham” (Luke 2:69-74).
In other words, Zechariah knew God and what He had promised to Israel. So when it came time for the Messiah to be born, he understood that this was the fulfillment of promises made hundreds, even thousands, of years before. In essence, Zechariah was praising the Lord God of Israel because He was doing exactly what He said He would. God is trustworthy.
And His trustworthiness bears mercy. The Lord God did not—does not!—stand far off, but He “has visited and redeemed His people” (Luke 2:68). Zechariah proclaimed, “because of the tender mercy of our God…the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 2:78-79). Zechariah saw and proclaimed that God is trustworthy and merciful.
Because of Christmas—because God is trustworthy and merciful—we can serve Him without fear. He has saved us “from the hand of all who hate us” and “delivered us from the hand of our enemies” so that we “might serve Him without fear” (Luke 2:71-74).
Because of Christmas 2016, we have nothing to fear in 2017. Wanting faith and certainty like Zechariah, I ask myself, "What do I fear in serving the Lord in the coming year?"
Where might I rehearse God’s trustworthiness and mercy to myself so that I might fearlessly serve Him?
- With my neighbors? (Do I fear being the subject of neighborhood gossip?)
- With lifelong friends? (Do I fear their rejection after so many years?)
- With my ailing father? (Do I fear making him uncomfortable?)
- With my unbelieving family? (Do I fear losing my human perception of progress?)
- With my readers? (Do I fear appearing foolish?)
And you? What have you feared? Has the Lord called you overseas? To give so sacrificially that your lifestyle must change? To invite inside the refugee or the homeless? To weave the gospel into your life and conversations so seamlessly that you are a bright light in our dark world?
May Christmas remind you and me “that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear” (Luke 1:74). Our biggest problem has been solved through Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. We need not fear. Our God is trustworthy and merciful. May we believe that, rehearse that, and act boldly on that in 2017.