67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
68 “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has visited to help and has redeemed his people,
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
70 just as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from earliest times—
71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all those who hate us,
72 to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to Abraham our father,
to grant us 74 that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies,
could serve him without fear 75 in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
76 And so you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High,
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the merciful compassion of our God
by which the dawn will visit to help us from on high,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to direct our feet into the way of peace.”
80 And the child kept growing and becoming strong in spirit, and was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.Luke 1:67-80
“Zechariah’s Song: Why Do You Need God? (Part 2)”
by Alistair Begg
Somebody’s Going to Pay for This
A few years ago I was driving my brother-in-law’s car round the streets of Glasgow in Scotland with my nieces in the back seat. Suddenly one of them said, “Uncle Alistair, you’ve gone wrong!” And while I was trying to rectify the situation, I crashed into a van. I’ll never forget—this fellow jumped out immediately, and he looked at his van and he looked at me, and he said, “Somebody’s going to pay for this.”
That was the first (though not the only) phrase out of his mouth, and he was right. A wrong had been done. A hurt had been caused. The mark had been missed. And somebody was going to have to pay in order for things to be put right. Someone would have to bear a cost.
And someone will have to bear the cost for our sin. The mighty God who is really there does not just wink at sin. He cares about how our sin spoils the world he made, and spoils the lives of those he made. He cares about how we reject his authority and seek to sit in his place. It makes him justifiably angry. He does not just let people off. He is a God who loves justice and brings justice, and so there is a punishment to be faced—there is a price to be paid.
The problem that confronts us is that we are unable to rectify the situation. We must pay the price—unless someone comes from the outside who does not share our predicament and who can pay the price to free us from the consequences of our actions; as if my brother-in-law had turned up as that fellow in the van said, “Somebody’s going to pay for this,” and had dug into his wallet and paid what it would cost to restore that man’s van and satisfy his justified anger. When it comes to our sin, that someone can only be God himself. We need God to come and we need God to help.
And this brings us back to Zechariah, because he is singing about the truth that God has done just that. He has turned up. And he has turned up to redeem us—to pay the price, bear the cost, of freeing us and restoring us so that we can know him and live with him again, forever.
A Question of Definition
At the heart of understanding the first Christmas, and why it is such good news, is an understanding of the nature of your predicament. And that involves accepting the nature of sinfulness—your sinfulness; and the seriousness of sin—your sin.
In other words, it involves letting God, not contemporary society, define sin. I read in a survey recently that only 17% of the American population refer to God in any way when asked to define “sin.” 83% see sin as merely something negative that’s had an impact on their life that they need to get cleaned up. And so they’ll never understand what God was doing at the first Christmas. He did not come merely to help us put the bits and pieces of our lives together in a way that gives us wholeness and stability. He did not come to provide a little religious Energizer battery that would make us nicer people. He did not even come just to make your life happy.
He came because you were drowning, pulled down by the weight of your sin and miles from the shore. If you’re drowning, it doesn’t help you for someone to come along in a boat and say, Come on now, thrash a little more. Try a little harder. Swim a bit better. You’ll be able to get yourself out of that mess. No, you need someone to reach down their hand, grasp yours, and pull you up to safety and take you to the shore. And if you know you are drowning, you don’t refuse the person whose hand is offered to you. You grab it, and you splutter your gratitude.
And that is what Zechariah is doing. He knows that his son, John, will “go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation”—of rescue—“through the forgiveness of their sins.” He knows that John will spend his life saying, Hold on. God is coming. And God will rescue you. And so Zechariah sings, just as everyone who grasps what God was doing at the first Christmas sings:
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.” God was moving into the neighborhood to free people from their sins and to fill up the space between himself and sinful people—sinful you and me.
 Alistair Begg, Christmas Playlist: Four Songs That Bring You to the Heart of Christmas (The Good Book Company, 2016), 35–38.