Hindi lang naman mga pulitiko ang nananamantala sa pagkakataon; ang mga barangay leaders rin ay tuso rin sa ganitong mga panahon. Ang pinipili nilang guest speaker ay yung inaasahan nilang makakapagbigay ng malaki-laking regalo sa baranggay pandagdag pondo. Kinaumagahan pagkatapos ng Christmas party, walang nagtatanong tungkol sa mensahe ng ispiker; ang tanong ay kung magkano ang kanilang ibinigay.
Naalala ko ang isang eksena sa jeepney bago magpasko noong taong 2003. Habang hinihintay kong mapuno ang dyip, naupo sa tapat ko ang isang pamilyar na mukha-- mukha ng isang frustrated politician (hindi pa nananalo sa halalan). Nandun yung paggalang ko sa kanya sapagkat bukod sa siya ay matalino, siya rin ay may mga prinsipyong pinaninindigan. Alam ko yun sapagkat nagging guro ko sa sa pamantasang aking pinasukan. Hindi naman siya militante, naaalala kong itinaguyod niya ang isang panukalang magsusulong sa kapakanan ng mga estudyante. Ayon rin sa isang mapagkakatiwalaang saksi, natutuwa ang kanyang mga anak sa tuwing natatalo siya sa halalan sa paniniwalang iiksi ang buhay ng kanilang ama kapag napasok sa pulitika dahil sa kanyang mga paninindigan.
Balik jeepney tayo: tinanong ko siya “sir, tatakbo po ba kayo?”. Sagot niya “oo, sa ticket kami ni FPJ”. Bilang isang kandidato, nakatangap rin siya ng imbitasyon bilang guest speaker sa Christmas party ng isang baranggay. Pero ang problema, hindi naman siya ganun kayaman. Tinangap niya ang paanyaya sa kanyang maging guest speaker sa isang kondisyon: “mampasimbalo tayo, mangiter ak met balet say anapen tayun kanepegan et aliwn satay kuwarta nu ang inggen say naasul tayun kakabatan”
Translation: “magbago na tayo, magbibigay rin ako pero ang dapat nating hanapin ay hindi ang pera kundi ang maiigib nating kaalaman.”
Pagkatapos ng eleksyon , hayun… talo nanaman ang aking mahal kong guro.
Hindi ko narinig ang kanyang talumpati at dahil hindi naman niya pinanghahawakan ang Limang Sola na pinanghahawakan ko, malamang hindi rin tugma ang kanyang talumpati sa mga pinaninindigan ko. Subalit tama siya sa isang punto: mababaw ang kaalaman ng mga tao pagdating sa "tunay na diwa ng pasko". We need the right guest speakers for Christmas. Today, I chose Zechariah, father of John the Baptist.
Introduction to the guest speakerIsang kaugalian sa mga programa na bago magsalita ang guest speaker, mayroon munang nagbibigay ng introduction to the guest speaker. Karaniwa’y inilalatag dito ang credentials ng panauhin tulad ng kanyang eskuwelahang pinasukan, mga kursong tinapos, mga puwestong kanyang nahawakan at iba pang mga achievements. Anu-ano ba ang mga kuwalipikasyon ni Zechariah upang magbigay sa ating ng mensaheng pampasko?
1. He is the father of the other miracle child in the Christmas narratives- There were two miracle babies in the biblical Christmas narratives. One was conceived by a virgin; the other one was conceived when his parents are in old age and past reproductive stage. He has a personal knowledge and experience in the Christmas story.
Mary even lived at his house for some time: “Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home” (Luke 1:56)… they must have shared each other’s stories like their encounters with the angels (though he is mute by that time). Pinag-usapan rin siguro nila ang mga magiging kanya-kanyang papel ni Hesus at ni Juan Bautista sa kasaysayan.
2. He is a righteous man—“Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly” (Luke 1:6).
3. Just underwent pruning—Though he is righteous ang productive in God’s service, he lacked the faith to believe the angel’s announcement that he will have a son. It just sounded too good to be true. So for about nine months (his wife’s pregnancy period) he was put under discipline by the Lord. This is an example of a productive vine pruned for even more fruitfulness.
John 15:2 "... every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful"
4. The Benedictus (Zechariah’s song) is part of inspired scripture; It is “useful”, “profitable” for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16); He was so filled with the Holy Spirit when he uttered this song (Luke 1:67)
You see, the people are very much interested in what his child will be. Luke 1:65-66 “The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, "What then is this child going to be?"”
But in his song, he spent most of the time talking about the Messiah. For the first seven verses of His song (68-75), it’s about the coming of the Messiah. Only in verse 76 does he start to talk about his child and he does so as he contemplates on the role of his Son John the Baptist in this new age that has dawn—the coming of the Messiah. So Zechariah’s song is more about the coming of the Messiah than the coming of John the Baptist.
Zechariah’s main point: Christmas is an act of kindness and redemption for a people under misery.
v.68: “"Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people." We can see that from the two verbs used here: “Come” (visit) & “redeem”
This word translated as Come or visit (episkeptoma) is “often used in a charitable way” (Walter Liefeld, EBC).
James 1:27—“look after” orphans and widows (care for those who are helpless)
Matt. 25:36—I was sick and you looked after me (care for the weak)
The usage of the word episkeptomai in James and Matthew indicates attending to the needs of those who are in misery. So when Zechariah says that “the Lord has come (visited; episkeptomai), he sees Israel in a state of misery, in anguish; and the Lord visits to care for his people.
Same is true for the verb redeem. It is used for God’s actions in behalf of his people. (see Psalm 107:2—and the rest of the Psalm where the redemption of God was experienced by different types of people in misery: those lost in a dessert; those who are languishing in jail; those who are about to die in terrible disease and seamen stranded at sea for violent storm. These are all portraits of people in misery who tasted the Lord’s goodness. They are called the redeemed.
The Lord Jesus affirms his ministry to those who are in misery. Luke 4;18… ‘"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind to release the oppressed,”
From what types of miseries did Jesus came for?
1. Christmas is an act of kindness and redemption for a people under physical miseries.
It may come as a little surprise to you, Zechariah’s first thoughts on Christmas is not deliverance from spiritual miseries, but physical miseries, specifically their political problems (v.71, 74). By this time they are under Roman rule. But in Israel’s history there were others who hated them: If you have followed Pastor Jun’s teachings, they were often judged by the Lord for their cruel acts against Israel (Assyra, Babylon, Cush, Edom, etc.). In recent times, you have an Adolph Hitler who was a notorious anti-Semite. But the greatest enemy of Israel is yet to be revealed. I’m speaking eschatology now (end times). Daniel 9:27 mentions a person who would make a covenant with Israel for seven-years (tribulation period) but in the middle of the covenant, he will break it. He will proclaim himself to be God (2 Thess. 2:4). He is the anti-Christ himself and he will be the greatest hater of God’s people in history. (Matt.24:15-21;)
Zechariah says Christmas is for this very purpose: to get rid of the miseries of his people caused by their enemies.
The grounds of physical deliverance:
God is faithful to to the covenants he has made in the past.
You must understand that our guest speaker Zechariah is and Old Testament believer. Some concepts we have about Christmas are very true, because as Christians we know the gospel well. We know the truth of the word made flesh who dwelt among us (John 1:14) we know him who was equal with God yet made himself empty—of no reputation and became obedient unto the cross. We know the meaning of Christmas because we have 27 new testament books to expound it to us. But our guest speaker’s bible is the Old Testament. Not even one of the NT books were written during his time.
Yet there are Old Testament concepts of Christmas which are so foreign to us, you won’t find them as themes even in the best Christmas songs. This is where we can glean treasures from Zechariah. He will enrich our understanding of the gospel by showing us unfamiliar Old Testament concepts.
I say again: God’s grounds for sending physical deliverance for his people is because of his faithfulness to the covenants he has made in the past.
The first of these is his faithfulness to the Davidic Covenant. To avoid getting entangled with unnecessary things, let me just simplify that God has promised to King David that the reign of his descendants shall be forever. 2 Sam 7:16: “"Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever" But you know what happened, most of the succeeding kings were disobedient. They did not walk in fear of the Lord, therefore their kingdoms are weak and thy were trampled upon by their enemies.
In faithfulness to his covenant and to rescue his people from misery, God gave us Christmas so he could raise a powerful king from David’s line (Matt.1:1); their usage of the imagery horn in very different from how we us it. Ano ba maiisip ninyo kapag sasabihin kong si Randy ay tinutubuan ng sungay? Masama di ‘ba? But in Hebrew idiom, a horn is a symbol of power. As Moses gives blessing to the tribes of Israel, this is what he said as a blessing to Ephraim & Manasseh: “In majesty he is like a firstborn bull; his horns are the horns of a wild ox. With them he will gore the nations, even those at the ends of the earth.” (Deut. 33:17). Horn is a picture of power—this king that God has raised in Christmas is powerful for the deliverance of people.
The second ground for sending physical deliverance is his faithfulness to the covenant with the patriarch Abraham (1:72-73). Abram was comfortable at Ur when God suddenly made this covenant with him See Gen. 12:1-3.
1. To be made a great nation- a nation is a people with a common ancestor occupying a land; Moab is the father of Moabites; Ben-Ammi is the father of the Ammonites.
Abraham live during th time when nations were young. Let me explain. After the flood there were only eight persons alive: Mr & Mrs. Noah; Mr. & Mrs. Ham; Mr. & Mrs. Shem; Mr. Mrs. Japheth. All the genetic variations we have today (singkit; kulot; unat; puti; itim; matangkad; pandak) are from that four couples.
Only after the tower of Bible were various groups scattered according to their language. The initial nations were recorded in Genesis 10.
Abraham lived when the nations were young. He was comfortable living in his home and hith the nation but God suddenly called him asking him to leave and to occupy a land with a nation descended from him. Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob and Jacob begat 12 sons—which now comprises the nation of Israel. Israel therefore is the recipient of promise.
2. To be blessed
3. Protection from enemies- Zechariah’s very concerns
4. To be a channel of blessing
Zechariah is not alone in connecting Christmas with the Abrahamic covenant blessings—even Mary has this concept. When she was pregnant: LK 1:54-55 “He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers."
~ We who are in Christ are recipients of this blessing too (Galatians 3:14)
~ But there is a problem. God’s promises of blessing in the Davidic and Abrahamic covenants were given for a purpose. Luke 1:74-75—“to enable them to serve without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”
~ People are not ready for that. Even if God grants all the physical blessings provided in the Abrahamic promises, they will not serve God in holiness and righteousness. Unregenerate men cannot do that.
~ So God will not rescue us from physical miseries apart from another form of misery—and that’s spiritual misery. That’s our second point.
2. Christmas is an act of kindness and redemption for a people under spiritual miseries (Luke 1:77-80)
~ Zechariah addresses his baby about his role in God’s redemptive plan… that is to deal with sin.
God wants to deliver his people from physical miseries, freedom from foreign power yet they are in bondage to another power. In Paul’s lingo, he calls it in bondage to sin. All the miseries in the word are a product of sin. Before sin came, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Gen.1;31). You have a different picture of the creation when you come to chapter 3 when man fall into sin. “Cursed is the ground because of you” (Gen.3:17)… “"It will produce thorns and thistles for you" (Gen.3:18)… “'from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." (3:19). .. Sa tuwing may batang nauulila; sa tuwing may babaeng nagiging balo, sa tuwing mayroon tayong matalik na kaibigan o mahal sa buhay na namatay na o kahit nandun pa lamang sa ICU at binabantaan ng kamatayan, maraming tao ang nagdadalamhati, marami ang tumatangis, sino ang dapat na sisihin sa ganitong mga pighati: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5;12). Sin has brought nothing into the world but misery. It never gave men to happiness; and all it offers is affliction.
In a sense, I am also a prosperity preacher. I believe God’s will for his people is perfect health and prosperity. Yes God will grant us perfect heath and perfect prosperity after sin is totally eradicated. The other side however (those prosperity preachers you see on TV) says that God’s will is health and prosperity now.. now… now. And if you are not, there is something wrong with your faith.
A Christmas message must therefore face the issue of sin for he came to save us from our sins (Matt. 1:21). When I was a radio listener of John Macarthur, one of the most unforgettable messages I heard is titled “The Ugliness of Christmas”. It was an unusual title for a Christmas message. Not the title alone but even the message itself is unlike other Christmas message I heard before. It was heavy hamartiology—an exposition of what sin is. He justifies it by saying: “the real beauty of Christmas is to understand the ugliness that it cures” .
I can name two misconceptions during Zechariah’s time:
1. Being biologically descended from Abraham guarantees covenant blessings; It is the very error John the Baptist (our speaker’s son) addressed during his ministry: Luke 3:8-9 “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, `We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 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."
Jesus says: “"If you were Abraham's children, then you would do the things Abraham did.”
2. Mosaic Sacrifices settles the issue of sin.—(Heb. 10:3-4); The blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin. And so Christ came to sacrifice himself (Heb.10:8-11). There is a body that must be offered so that’s why there is incarnation. So when John the Baptist saw Jesus, he shouted "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1;29)
If you will go on reading, you will arrive at the discussion of the New Covenant which will accomplish two things. First, transformation (v.16) and forgiveness (v.17). sin is therefore dealt with with the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus. By dealing with sin, he also prepares us for the physical blessings. We are now able to serve God in holiness and righteousness all our days.
As Zechariah ends his song, he presents a metaphor about this new age in redemptive history. He describes is as “dayspring; a dawning; rising of the sun”. It indicates that the previous age is characterize by darkness. Our lives, our deeds, our ways are thoughts, our beliefs are darkness. (Eph. 4:18) We were all walking in the wrong way, we were following the wrong path, but because of God’s tender mercies, God sent forth his son to give us light. “"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);
That’s the story of Christmas: God saw our miseries, both physical and spiritual, so he gave his Son so he can deliver us from all of our afflictions.