Nearly all the major players in the great drama of the Incarnation are now in place.
Elizabeth’s pregnancy comes to an end as JOHN is born and his father Zechariah acknowledges the huge significance of this event in the words of the Benedictus Luke 1.68-79 in which he traces the fulfilment of prophecy and the certainty of the covenants. He was well able, now, to see the significance of the events as, being a priest, he was steeped in the OT scriptures and particularly perhaps, almost the last word of the OT.
Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.
Read these words alongside Matthew 11.7-10 and they make the significance of John’s birth drop into place. But equally if we did not have these words of Jesus, we like the original readers of Malachi’s words, should have had our hearts stirred with anticipation even though there would still be a 400 year wait for their fulfilment. So when the people in Jerusalem heard Zechariah’s song of praise, at least for those who were waiting, longing for the promise of Genesis 3.15 to be fulfilled, there must have been a very tangible sense of anticipation.
John and Jesus were very close in age and although with the birth of Jesus the promise was fulfilled it was not fully known till John had played his vital role in fulfilment of Isaiah 40.3-5
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’”
Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt round his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
There should have been heightened levels of anticipation at the birth of Jesus and John but they passed unnoticed by most and for some 30 years we know nothing of John and have just a couple of glimpses of Jesus but then John began his ministry pointing to
‘The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’. John 1.29
Let us be bold this Christmas season and in every season in pointing people to Jesus.