A couple of weeks ago I was able to dedicate quite a lot of time to studying Zechariah’s song. This is the song Zechariah sang at the birth of his son John (who would, of course, soon be known as John the Baptist), the song he sang after nine months of being mute. At the heart of the song is his joy and wonder that God will visit his people. This was my big takeaway–the wonder of the visitation.
There are many occasions in the Old Testament where God visits his people. These are not bodily visits, but God making himself known in some way. They are not always occasions of joy.
In Exodus 32 the Israelites have made a golden calf and have worshiped it in place of God. God extends mercy to his people but he solemnly warns them that if the people choose sin in place of God and if they refuse to turn away from that sin, God will “visit their sin upon them.” God will visit them in judgment.
Other times he visits in grace. God has promised Abraham a son through Sarah and yet year after year passes with no child. But then at last we read, “The Lord visited Sarah as he had said … and Sarah conceived.” God visits Sarah in mercy and grace and in consequence she becomes pregnant and gives birth to a child. This does not mean that God somehow visits and impregnates her, but that he visits his mercy upon her so that she can conceive with her husband.
A visit from God can be an occasion of terror or an occasion of mercy. Zechariah knows that the birth of his son portends God visiting his people with the greatest mercy. The amazing thing is, this visit of God’s mercy will be a literal visit. God will take on flesh and live among his people.
I am quite convinced that we visit one another less today than ever before. There are so many different ways we can communicate today—email, telephone, letter, Facebook. In the midst of all of this communication, visits may seem outmoded and inconvenient. All of these other forms of communication have displaced visiting one another. And yet it is still an honor to have a person visit, to come into your home and to share your space.
I have a friend who is a professional ball player. At least once every baseball season I head down to watch the Blue Jays lose to his team. After the game we meet outside the clubhouse and walk over to my car so he can come over and hang out with my family for a while. And as he walks outside the stadium, people always come up to him and ask him to sign bats and balls and hats and whatever else they’ve got. I just stand off to the side and find myself thinking how cool it is that this celebrity will come to my house and hang out with me once he’s finished with the autographs. It is an honor to have him visit. It’s the kind of thing I’d be tempted boast about to all of his fans as they stand there vying for some of his attention. “He’s coming over to my house!”
If you are a Christian then I trust you find joy in boasting about God—to tell others what you love about him and what amazes you about him. Here is something to boast about: Our God visited us! We fell to such an extent that we had no ability to get to him, and so he took on human flesh and came to us. Every other faith and every counterfeit perversion of the Christian faith says that we need to work our way into God’s favor and that we need to stretch upward toward him. The incarnation displays God’s love in that Jesus Christ came to visit us. This is worth boasting about!