“God was the hero”, says the Innkeeper to his son, and his son tells us.
God is the one responsible for all of this new hope and light and life coming at us in this baby boy.
Another old man says similar, but in much more expansive terms.
It is old Zechariah, an old priest at the city temple who has shared life with Elizabeth and miraculously later in life been granted the thing for which they longed – a child. His name is John. We know him for what he said and did – John the Baptiser.
Old man Zechariah breaks into song at the birth of his promised son. It is a good song.
Now that is a song! And that is a father praising his God for the gift of a son. And that is why God is the hero of it all for Zechariah.
John and even more, the One he announces – this God of flesh and bones born into this shadow of death in which we live will guide us through it to light and life in it and beyond it. That is our Advent hope.
But, truth is, we don’t know what to do with this song from the old priest. It is too big for us, and we are too small for it.
Deep down we want to be the hero of our story, our life, our family, our work, our place. We want to be the hero by two ways – religious or irreligious.
We want to achieve this greatness – mercy, kindness, be a pillar of light for those around us by our good work and right thinking that earns that light, makes that light, gets us that hero status among those we love or those we don’t.
We think right, do right, say right and then God has to treat us right. That is how we are.
Or, we are this way – the other way, we reject the hero and the need to be anyone of note as we stay in our little bubble, head down, tail up, working for something of which we are not sure. “It is just what we do”, we say to ourselves. We don’t need another hero, or any hero. No one is a hero. Heroes are for weak people who need an emotional crutch or constant handouts….
We just need to be ourselves, breath, and be free and live on our terms the way that feels OK and does not harm anyone….
Whether we are trying to be our own hero or rejecting the whole need to contribute anything, our lack of listening to this old priest and his son and the other Son, his cousin, he announces out there in the desert of gnats and camel’s hair and dry, both paths we choose are dead end.
The highly religious path of keeping all the expectations and demands and rules to keep clean and show others how clean and good we are, are but filthy rags compared to this miracle baby in the shed, says the prophet John to the religious people coming out to the Jordan.
And the irreligious self-defining, freedom fighters of the self, grabbing what we can to feel good and ‘make the world a better place’ on our terms without this boy or this John or this old priest’s tune in our hearts – without what God has done and said in them all are walking a crooked road that needs to be straightened.
We follow the wrong hero’s – heroes that cannot deliver what they promise or can sustain you long enough in this shadow of death. They cannot even make a dent in death.
But the hero comes. The Hero can and has. He remains THE hero, despite our rejection or replacement of him.
This old man who was on mute for ages, finally has his tongue released and boy, Zechariah’s tongue moves with the beauty and truth of God as he speaks of his own boy and THE boy coming.
Just goes to show, God makes people who cannot speak, speak, and cannot hear, hear – even you, even me!
His mercy and power to deliver us never fail. Zechariah tells you that.
John, marching out into his calling in the desert and baptising them in the river tells you that. John gives it all because he trusts it all.
John, the son of Zechariah, calls. Don’t be a hero, friend. You are not and you don’t need to be and you don’t need any other heroes than this Jesus. Here is the real hero of our lives, of Christmas, of the year, or all years. Here is THE gift – forgiveness.
John has the humility we need. “Not even I am the hero”, says John, the man who is totally committed to honey and bugs and desert dwelling with no fridge or Christmas Ham or good wine. “I am not worthy to put on this hero’s shoes” he declares.
Zechariah, the priest, John’s dad, knew who the real hero of the world was. He sings in full voice when he sees his promised boy in the flesh and holds that gift in his very own hands.
This song has taken a lifetime to craft, and now it flows out of a heart that knows who the real hero of our lives is.
We are not worthy of this boy, but he is worthy of all these song words and more.
He will do the most heroic thing ever done – lay down his innocent life for the guilty, find lost people by losing himself, giving up everything for the underserving gain all of him and his promises, welcoming struggling travellers into his embrace like this father and son did in their little Inn.
Welcome this real hero this Christmas. As you do;