Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and provided redemption for his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, just as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets in ancient times; salvation from our enemies and from the hand of those who hate us. He has dealt mercifully with our ancestors and remembered his holy covenant— the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant that we, having been rescued from the hand of our enemies, would serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness in his presence all our days. And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the dawn from on high will visit us to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
The child grew up and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel. (Luke 1:67-80)
As a father, I’m not content to merely watch my children grow. I study them. I drink in their every movement and expression, and I love every minute of it. I especially enjoy those moments of spontaneous dancing and singing when they jump around in fits of pure joy like no one’s watching. If someone is watching, they don’t care. Only a child can be that uninhibited.
Then again, the Bible offers several examples of adults erupting into similar outbursts of happiness. Miriam, for instance, took a tambourine in her hand, and began dancing and singing once the Israelites were safely across the Red Sea and their former Egyptian captors were somewhere under the water (Ex 15:20). I like to imagine her waving her arms around and singing just out of tune like my daughter when she’s overcome by her youthful bliss.
Perhaps the mature Christian thinks this kind of behavior is unbecoming or less than dignified. He or she may argue our religion is too serious for such silliness, especially among adults, but I will argue otherwise. No one on the planet, children included, have more reason to throw back our heads, sing with the volume set to eleven, and dance whether we have an ounce of rhythm or not than Christians. Why? As Zechariah sings himself while filled with the Holy Spirit, “The Lord has provided redemption for his people” (Lk 1:67, 68).
Redemption is the theme of Zechariah’s praise. Christ was coming. “The Lord, the God of Israel, has visited,” the priest says with such confidence that he speaks as though it already happened (Lk 1:68). And with God’s visit to this earth comes freedom.
I love that word—redemption. It implies Christ purchased us out of slavery, which he did. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace (Eph 1:7).
We were slaves to sin. Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin until the Son sets you free (Jn 8:34, 36).
We were slaves to the curse of the law until Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (Gal 3:13).
We were slaves to false religion, or the elements of the world, until the time came to completion and God sent his Son (Gal 4:3, 4).
We were slaves of fallen people and their corrupt systems until we were bought at a price (1Co 7:23).
We were slaves to Satan, held in slavery all our lives, until Jesus came to free us (Heb 2:15, 14).
Zechariah sees this state of bondage as living in darkness under the shadow of death (Lk 1:79). It’s like a madman held us captive in his dungeon for years when we suddenly see a ray of light from above. The door opens, a hand reaches down, and someone says, “Don’t be afraid. You’re safe now.”
Zechariah happily exclaims, “Because of God’s merciful compassion, the dawn from on high will visit us to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Lk 1:78, 79). Is it any wonder he, not to mention Elizabeth and Mary before him, bursts into spontaneous, joyful praise? The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world, and Zechariah’s own son would go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins (Jn 1:9; Lk 1:76, 77).