Well, I suppose starting December with a blog post on Christmas is not a bad idea. After all, even non-believers tend to get excited about Santa Claus, children and presents at this time of year. (Eggnog and Fruit Cake are still up for debate, though) But using an almost unheard of Old Testament Minor Prophet, Zechariah, for the subject might need more explanation. “Where’s the relevance,” you might wonder. We have been working our way through those hidden gems of the Minor Prophets in our church family, and I believe the message of Zechariah is particularly encouraging for us as we move into the Christmas season. Track with me and see for yourself.
Zechariah was written about 520 BC to a Jewish people in their hometown who had forgotten their identity and purpose. They had forgotten that they were God’s people, loved and called by God for world-changing mission. They had settled into a life of ease while the glory of God, represented by an unfinished temple, was set aside as an afterthought. While part of Zechariah’s message was a call to repentance, the overall theme of the prophecy was one of hope for those who would turn and follow him. Right out of the shoot, the Lord declares, “Return to me, and I will return to you.” In short, the message to the ancient children of Israel is the same for us today on the other side of the world, separated by time and technology. The message is that Christmas is a comfort and challenge for God’s children today.
In the closing days of the 6th century BC, the prophet reminded the Hebrews that God had kept his promise to bring them back to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity. Zechariah now declares further promises of God in the first advent of the Messiah and his second coming at the end of all things.
Because of this hope, the ancient children of God were challenged to rise out of their ease, live out their lives according to who they were, and complete the reconstruction of God’s temple in Jerusalem. They were to live differently than the nations and peoples around them, honoring God in all they did. The undergirding of this challenge was not one of heavy religion but rather the hope of walking with a trustworthy God.
For us today, the principle is the same. The objective is not to strive to be more self-righteous and religious but to experience hope that the world cannot comprehend and thus live differently. We can remember and walk in this hope when we:
- Look back to the Answered Promises of God.
In brief, God kept His promise to Israel. He kept His promise to bring the Messiah, His son, Jesus Christ, into the world. Out of all the Minor Prophets, Zechariah contains more than 40 messianic prophecies, which is a huge number considering the book is only 14 chapters long.
From Zechariah, we see that God would live among us and this is fulfilled in John 1:14. The prophecy of the Messiah riding into Jerusalem on a donkey is here and fulfilled in Matthew. The betrayal of Judas for 30 pieces of silver that we see in Matthew was predicted in Zechariah, and the prophet also foreshadows the hands and feet of Jesus being pierced on the cross. The ultimate plan was to “remove the sin of this land in a single day,” which we see Jesus accomplishing on the cross for those who would trust him. Yes, in a big way, Christmas brings hope when we remember that Christ coming into the world to dwell among us is the highlight of the faithfulness of God.
In addition to the sacred texts and their fulfillment in Jesus, we can also take some time to remember and compile a list of the many answered prayers we have received from God in the past. God has demonstrated his past faithfulness.
2. Look forward to the Announced future Promises of God.
In addition to the first advent prophecies of God, Zechariah declares God’s promises for the end of all things when Jesus comes again and sets all things right and anew. We can live with hope that God will settle the score. We see Zechariah paint this picture, and we can get a glimpse of it in Revelation 19. Does it not stand to reason that if God kept His word in the past, His very nature demands that He will do so in the future as well?
3. Look at our Daily Lives with Awareness of the Promises of God.
Zechariah is doing more than celebrating the trustworthiness of God. The prophet is challenging the people of Jerusalem to get out of their ease and live lives of divine purpose. For us today, God calls us to live differently than the world around us because of who we are in Christ and the fact that we can trust God. He kept his word then and will keep it in the future. Therefore, because of these realities, we are challenged to live differently. We are to act with compassion and justice toward those around us. We are to speak with grace and truth. We can and must see the power and pleasure of God and worship him with responsive passion. We live as if we truly believed the things we say we believe.
Despite the desperation and confusion in the world around us, there is hope in Christ, and Christmas is a reminder of that. When we fully grasp this reality and live it out, the world will be drawn to the hope within us just as much as a child spying on a fake Santa in a shopping mall with intense curiosity and hope. The only difference is that our hope is certain and sure. God has kept, is keeping, and will keep His promises.
Can you remember how God has blessed you in the past?
Can you look around and see those in your world who need the love of Christ desperately, and what can you do to serve them?
Be blessed, and Merry Christmas.
PS – Eggnog and Fruitcake are still options in my book.