"'And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him." -
Greetings in the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ!
Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for offering me the privilege of serving as your Lead Pastor. I have loved being here, and I am thrilled to continue the journey as we explore the good plans God has for this church. As we move forward, we on Session have been praying for a new season of unity as we work together to share the good news of Jesus Christ with our neighbors.
We have an important call on our congregation. Did you know that within a one-mile radius of MLEPC, the fastest growing demographic is children between the ages of five and nine? We just learned that this week, but it coincides directly with the vision we believe God has given us to reach children and their families in our neighborhood. We have had nearly 300 different elementary students come through our doors for Fired-Up Friday in the last four months alone! And you can imagine how many more people we will have when we welcome their parents and siblings through Family Fired-Up Fridays starting next month. More than a quarter of these do not have a church home.
Over the last couple of weeks, we have been looking at the contrast between two people -Zechariah, the priest and Mary, the humble teenager. One heard God's call and didn't believe - and God used him anyway (the hard way). One heard and believed and God used her mightily. The Lord can use reluctant witnesses and willing witnesses, but it is a whole lot easier if we trust His plan and say with Mary, "May it be to me as you have said."
This week, we turn again to Zechariah. He has now had nine months of silence to reflect on the Lord's plan. When they tried to name his new baby after him, Zechariah hurriedly wrote, "His name is John." The act that opens his mouth is an act of selflessness. Sons were always named after their fathers - it was a way to carry on their legacy. But instead Zechariah obeys the angel's instructions in Luke 1:13 to name him John. The name means "Jehovah is a gracious giver." Zechariah, whose speech was taken away for nine months, now can see and touch this incredible gift of a son given to him in his old age.
God used the "refiner's fire" of forced silence to burn out doubt and fear from Zechariah's heart, and when Zechariah's tongue is finally loosed, he proclaims one of the most beautiful hymns of praise in the Bible. If you were silent for nine months, what would be the first words you would speak? Zechariah proclaims the praises of God "because he has come and has redeemed his people" (Luke 1:68). He remembers the stories of old, reminding us of the way the Lord showed mercy and rescued the people of Israel.
He then speaks a blessing over his newborn son, calling him "a prophet of the Most High" (Luke 1:76) whose purpose is "to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, ... and shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace" (vv. 77-79).
Today, God has called us to walk in the path of John the Baptist, to speak of the tender mercy of our God to those living in darkness. We join the psalmist who urges us "to tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord... so the next generation will know them, even the children yet to be born" (Psalm 78:4-6).
Please be praying for all the families we will welcome into our church as we celebrate Advent and Christmas. Invite your family and neighbors to join us Christmas Eve. May we speak of God's tender mercies with great compassion. May we demonstrate God's hospitality to them, His self-giving love that came in the midst of silence and burst forth into songs of praise.