Zechariah and the Least Expected Places – Ben Thomas (2008, The Bewildering Light)

Click on image to listen to song for free.

This selection is a beautiful, short transition piece from an anticipatory focus of Christ’ arrival to the mode of His incarnation.  We have spent time dwelling much on the expectation and need for a savior.  Now it is time to examine how God chose to send this Mighty Warrior to our rescue.

Of course, our discoveries will prove that it was an unexpected, unpopular and unlikely plan with humble beginnings and indirect routes.  God came not as a soldier, but as a helpless baby.  He came not into royalty, but peasantry (even though royal blood was in His veins).  He came with no fanfare, except for one bright star that only foreigners picked up on, and angels that only appeared to a select few – mainly socially out-casted shepherds.  But before all of these elements are revealed, our Christmas tale begins with a small story about a minor character named Zechariah.

Ben Thomas (also goes by the band name, So Elated) is the creative arts director at The Orchard Community in Naperville, Illinois.  He has a couple of albums that came out after this Christmas album, which was recorded in six days six years ago.  This song is the only one I know of that highlights the journey of Zechariah (a Jewish priest) and Elizabeth, parents to John the Baptist, forerunner to Jesus of Nazareth:

Jerusalem and the holy temple filled with smoke,                                                    Zechariah shuns the news from the angel of hope,                                                         stuck behind an incense cloud of religion and disappointment,                                         God keeps slippin’ out from underneath rocks and alleys off the beaten path,               open both your eyes

Prophets and kings and poets can contribute their work,                                                   just like eggs in a nest are alive with the promise of birds,                                                  but the Lord of creation will not be suggested to expectation,                                            God keeps slippin’ out from underneath rocks and alleys off the beaten path,               open both your eyes

Elizabeth barren, her knees black and dirty like coal,                                                         her consistent prayers float to the sky and revive her soul,                                             God, we will wait though we don’t understand Your redemptive story,                                God keeps slippin’ out from underneath rocks and alleys off the beaten path,                 open both your eyes

Luke 1 tells the story about Zechariah’s disbelief when the angel visits him bringing the news of a son to be born to his barren wife, Elizabeth.  Here is a Jewish religious leader, someone who should know the prophesies about a Messiah to come, and he is visited by a heavenly being.  Yet, his eyes are closed to the truth God had prepared especially for him.  So God closed his mouth for a time.

The song takes this event and brings out the resounding theme of the Nativity – that God comes to us in unusual and unexpected ways – therefore let us open both of our eyes to what God is doing around us.  Another John, who came later and closed the Written Word, records Jesus’ final instruction to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3.  Here God repeats the familiar refrain to all seven groups, “He who has ears to hear must listen.”

The principle is the same: Don’t look for God in earthly ways.  Look for God in godly ways, according to His nature and preference – not our own.  So many times, we want God to show up in our lives in a certain way, a way that we think would be best.  God came to us in the least expected way possible and the people who should have been ready to receive Him shunned and crucified Him instead.

There are too many “versions” of Christmas out there for us NOT to get easily tangled up in something fraudulent, erroneous and less than what Christmas really is.  Let us adhere to the lesson of Zechariah and join the chorus, “God, we will wait, though we don’t understand Your redemptive story…”  Dear Lord, open both our eyes!

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