Here’s a Christmas carol that you might not have noticed: Zechariah’s prophecy (Luke 1:67-79). The lyrics are about John the Baptist, and the song has been often titled The Benedictus. It’s in this part of the Christmas story that we learn some of the most important connections between John and Jesus. Zechariah’s song is a glad song (Verse 68): “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people!”
What does it mean to be redeemed? Bible scholars tell us that this verb clearly includes the notion of deliverance by a deliverer – what we might call a rescue – and that it often carries with it the imagery of release at a cost.
If we look ahead to Luke 24:21, a great part of the disappointment and sadness being experienced by the two walking along the Emmaus Road comes from their dashed hopes that Jesus was going to deliver them. There’s no doubt that many of Zechariah’s contemporaries had hopes for a political redemption. They were well acquainted with the Exodus from Egypt which still serves as one of the greatest examples of a rescue in all of human history.
But our Lord Jesus was primarily about the goal of spiritual rescue! You and I need to be rescued because we are by nature – along with Adam and everyone since Adam – spiritual rebels who deserve nothing but the wrath of God.
In a commercial transaction, there are four components: the buyer, the seller, the price paid, and the item purchased. In the “transaction” of salvation, the buyer is the Lord Himself. The seller is sin and the curse of God’s Law. (We are not redeemed from the devil, but certainly from lots of devilish things.) The price paid is Christ’s own life. And that which is purchased is a people for Christ’s own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:14). The purchase is equated with forgiveness of our sins (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14). To be redeemed is to be forgiven!
I thought you might enjoy some of Charles Wesley’s original hymn lyrics, which we seldom sing today. These are almost verbatim from 1739:Come, Desire of nations, come, Fix in us Thy humble home; Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed, Bruise in us the serpent’s head. Now display Thy saving power, Ruined nature now restore; Now in mystic union join Thine to ours, and ours to Thine Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!” Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface, Stamp Thine image in its place: Second Adam from above, Reinstate us in Thy love. Let us Thee, though lost, regain, Thee, the Life, the inner man: O, to all Thyself impart, Formed in each believing heart. Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”
The one death that was required as full and final payment for ALL our sins was a sacrificial death – and it required bloodshed – in keeping with the ancient pattern of the sacrificial lamb (Hebrews 9:22; First Peter 1:18-19).
And something God purchases He never gives away! That’s one of the many reasons why I love Christmas. I’m reminded of a humble love that won’t let me go. Christmas points to the cross of Christ.
So maybe Dr. Seuss was right:
And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?
“It came without ribbons! It came with tags!
“It came without packages, boxes and bags!”
And he puzzled three hours, ’till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
“Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!”Pastor Charles