Day 13: The End of Self-Help

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people” (Luke 1:68)

Zechariah is the father of John the Baptist. He sings a wondrous song at the birth of his son about another son—Mary’s son. His song has a simple, yet earth-shattering message: in the baby Jesus, God has come to town. This isn’t anything new of course. God had been coming to save his people for centuries! Zechariah begins, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people” (v. 68). These words “visited” and “redeemed” are reminiscent of the Exodus and how God saved his people when they were slaves in Egypt. Showing up to save. That’s what God does.

Why did God visit and redeem his people? Zechariah mentions two reasons. Enemies (v. 71) and sin (v. 77). Whether it’s ancient Israel, Zechariah, or us today, we’re all in “Egypt” apart from God’s grace. We are all are shackled from embracing God because of sin, evil, death, and Satan. We are all slaves to the kingdom of darkness and are desperate for freedom.

And everyone is trying to tell us how we can be rescued. Politicians, economists, educators, celebrities, even athletes. Everyone has a solution. What’s more is that we continually try to save ourselves. We see the brokenness in us and in the world around us and we create our own system of salvation. It might be through religious practice, personal morality, making money, romantic relationships, good grades, or professional resume. Anything. Ask yourself, “What do I look to for safety and security and freedom?”

It doesn’t take long to realize that self-help simply won’t cut it. Self-help couldn’t help Israel under the dominion of the Egyptian empire. It couldn’t help Zechariah. And it won’t help you or me either. It’s all too easy to try to climb ladders to get up to God. Yet what we need is God to come down to us. If the world is broken, no solution in the world will suffice. It has to be God. Only God can clean up the mess we’ve made. Only God can free us from our enemies, both inside and out. Zechariah’s song reminds us that God has come to town. And when he comes, it’s the end of self-help.

Scripture and Reflection Questions
Read Luke 1:57-80

  1. In what ways do you try to save yourself?
  2. Read. v. 68. The word “redeemed” means to be bought back. What are some areas of life where you need to see God’s redemption?
  3. Read v. 69. Why is phrase “the house of his servant David” important? Does it matter that Jesus has come from a real-live human family?
  4. What enemies do you have? Where do you need to ask God for help from your enemies?

From We Look for Light: Readings and Reflections for Advent

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