This passage is found in the Narrative Lectionary, Advent 4, Year B. It is also found in the Revised Common Lectionary, Advent 2, Year C (Most recently, Dec 2021)
Summary: As I reflected on Zechariah's words, I asked myself -- why does Luke give him so much time? Most of us could have gone from the Magnificat right to the birth! (And liturgically we normally do!) I wrestled with answers having to do with John the Baptist, but then I realized the reason Luke spends so much time on Zechariah has nothing to do, really, with John the Baptist, and everything to do with Jesus. Zechariah's song is Luke's way of proclaiming to us the key mission of Jesus Christ: To be our Lord and Savior. Why else would Luke exhaust so much ink between the Magnificat and the birth? In this blog post, I look at the connection between Zechariah's words and the words of Christ from the cross and resurrection scenes of Luke's Gospel.
Where to go for a sermon: A reminder of what this whole thing Christmas is all about -- the salvation that comes to us in Jesus Christ.
Key words (unrelated to my bigger point):
πνευματου αγιου (form of πνευμα αγιος, meaning "Holy Spirit" 1:67). The Holy Spirit makes frequent appearances in Luke's Gospel! (In fact, this is the fourth appearance in Luke 1 - vss 15, 35 & 41). The Holy Spirit's work here is in conjunction with prophesy, specifically the work of pointing the world toward Jesus Christ.
αφοβως ("without fear" 1:74) The prefix "α" in Greek means "without"; φοβος means "fear." What a beautiful reminder, in our world of fear, that Jesus has come that we might worship without fear! Paul, in Philippians 1:14, talks about how in prison he still worships without fear.
λατρευειν ("worship", 1:75) God has rescued us for a purpose -- that we might serve and worship God. The act of redemption is not for our independence, but our fundamental binding to God.
Key words (related to my bigger point)
ευλογητος ("blessed" 1:68) Zechariah begins his song with a word of blessing to the Lord. The last activity in Luke's Gospel (really the last word) is also blessed (24:53; as a participle), when the disciples praise the risen and ascended Christ.
προφηταις ("prophet", 1:70; 24:25, 27, 44) Zechariah proclaims that God has brought about the promised salvation, promised through the prophets. At the end of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus will explain how he is the fulfillment of the prophets.
εν τω ιερω ("in the temple"; 24:53) The Gospel of Luke begins with Zechariah in the temple; and the circumcision, I assume, also happens at the temple. In short, the Gospel (and the declaration of Jesus' mission through Zechariah) begins and ends in the temple.
διαθηκης ("covenant" 1:72) Zechariah confirms that God has remembered his covenant. During the Last Supper, Jesus promises a new covenant (22:20); more powerfully, Jesus tells them to remember this new covenant. (22:19)
αφεσιν αμαρτιων ("forgiveness" 1:77; 24:47) Zechariah proclaims that John will bring knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins (I am fighting every bit of my Lutheran fingers to write more about this). For now though, recall, the first words of Christ from the cross are "Father, forgive them... (23:34) and then after the resurrection, he tells them that forgiveness is to be proclaimed in all the world.
εν τω παραδεις ("in paradise" 23:43) Zechariah speaks of the one coming to be a light in the darkness and shadow of death (1:79). From the cross, the tender mercy of God will break from on high and Jesus will be a light to the penitent thief!
ειρηνη ("peace" 1:79; 24:36) Zechariah promises that the one coming will guide us in peace. What are the first words of the resurrected Christ to the gathered disciples? Peace. When does peace come -- after the dawn has broken forth (talk about resurrection foreshadowing!!)