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And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared."
Everybody thinks their kid is the best at things. (Like my daughter, best violin player in the city!) But almost everyone with that kid that they love is just happy to have the child; the fact that they are so awesome is a bonus.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were old and were really longing for a child. When the angel said “Your prayer has been answered” there might have been a deep realization that let Zechariah know instantly what that prayer was. To find out you’re having a child, especially after a long time of trying is scary and fantastic news.
But the angel goes on. This child isn’t just for you to fill a nursery with ships and toys. This child is going to cause rejoicing in many people.
Zechariah was a priest. That meant that he spent a lot of time praying the Old Testament and reading the Old Testament. He would sit around with others discussing it and explaining it to others. While many of the priests in the Gospels are resistant to Jesus, there were many that sincerely looked for the next prophet of God or even the Messiah.
When the angel gives the description of this child, Zechariah would instantly recognize that his child was going to be a prophet. “He will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” The other two men that were in this league were Samson and Samuel! There was only one prophet in the history of Israel that was greater than Samuel!
This child, who will grow up to be John the Baptist, is going to go and speak “in the spirit and power of Elijah.” Boom. Now the angel has revealed the full magnitude of this prophet that is to be born. Elijah lived at a time where Israel was off track and needed a major reset. His main message was to turn away from sin and to turn back to God. That will turn out to be the number one message of John the Baptist. That is the very thing his baptism represents, and the ultimate message to the king that will result in his death.
Whatever kind of kid Zechariah and Elizabeth prayed for, God was going to give on behalf of all of us. Jesus would call him the greatest man ever before the Kingdom of Heaven. The work of John the Baptist, to prepare the way for the coming King, would ultimately fulfill the work of his dad the priest. No more intercession would be made once the Messiah came because everyone would be able to go to God directly (Jer. 31:34). The whole point of what Zechariah is doing at that moment will be wiped away when the Messiah comes!
If Christmas is about Jesus, then the first week of Advent has to be about John the Baptist. God began the deliverance of His people by showing off His character. Just like Moses was called after God heard the cry of His people, John the Baptist comes as Elijah and also as an Ephesians 3:20–21 level answer to the prayers of an old couple.
The way of the King is being prepared. The priests have been put on notice: get ready.