Between Canticle 16 and the Gospel lesson from Luke 3, we get just enough of JBap’s origin story to leave your typical congregation thoroughly confused. We find out that JBap is the son of Zechariah, and we hear his daddy’s song, but the context as to why it is important eludes us. The preacher who is dealing with JBap and Zechariah would do well to spend a moment or two reminding her members, roughly 20% of whom have never read the Bible, where this story comes from.
If you’re reading this blog, you probably aren’t a part of the growing trend toward biblical illiteracy, so I will spare you the gory details. Suffice it to say that Zechariah has experienced the wrath of God. Having doubted the word of God’s messenger, Zechariah was made mute for the duration of his wife, Elizabeth’s, gestation. The words we hear in Canticle 16 are the first words spoken by Zechariah since he asked, “How can this be” 40 or so weeks earlier.
Imagine how frustrating that time must have been. Zechariah had no one to blame but himself, and yet, he couldn’t tell of God’s great miracle in Elizabeth’s pregnancy after years of barren sadness. For 9ish months, the anger could have welled up within him, but it didn’t. Instead, in his quiet time Zechariah learned of God’s great love as he watched the promises made to him, the promises he doubted so honestly, come true again and again.
When Zechariah finally did speak, he didn’t warn of God’s coming anger, but instead, he sang the Good News of God’s “tender compassion,” literally God’s bowels of mercy that will lead to the way of peace.
There is plenty to learn from Zechariah, but rather than steering negative (i.e. don’t doubt God), I wonder if we might follow his example and highlight the good in his story; God’s love overflows and his tender compassion is open to all.