Mary and Zechariah are great examples to every Christian. In our modern day, young boys and girls are told to look up to those who are famous and successful in this life. But I can’t think of a better role-model for a little girl than the Virgin Mary. And I can’t think of a better role-model for a little boy than Zechariah. And by giving an example for Christian boys and girls, they give encouragement to the whole church, young and old, men and women alike.
Let’s first consider the Virgin Mary. First, she is a Virgin. She has not given herself to a man before marriage. Our culture has turned sex outside of marriage into the new normal. A girl is often fooled by a guy who says he loves her, and so they move in together, living in open rebellion against God by enjoying what God only gives for husbands and wives to enjoy. The Virgin Mary is a great example to every Christian girl today who desires to be chaste as she saves herself for the husband God will give her someday.
Mary receives a baby from God. She receives her motherhood from God. It is not something she chooses by her own mighty power. No, she recognizes herself as a humble maidservant of the Lord. What a great example to Christian girls, especially as we live in a culture that tells them that they are better off not having children. Women are told that in order for them to have equality with men then they need to avoid children as much as possible. And if they do decide to have children, then it needs to be just that — their decision! They set the ground rules. The power is in her. It isn’t in God graciously giving her a loving husband and pious children. No, it is in her planning, her fortitude, and her decisions! They even lead Christian girls astray into thinking that their spiritual gifts are expressed in becoming pastors, even though God has reserved this duty for men and has promised salvation to women as they do their humble duties as mothers (1 Tim 2:11-15).
But this isn’t how Mary is. Mary is not proud and arrogant like that. Instead, she rightly confesses that God strikes down the proud and mighty, and he exalts the lowly. He exalts those women who don’t boast in themselves, but boast instead in the Lord and in his promises. She trusted in God’s promise to save her. So Mary is a great example for Christian girls, because of her modesty. She doesn’t show off her womanly figure in order to seek attention from other men.
The women on television who are supposed to be role-models for our daughters show off their breasts and butts and legs, as if that is how they express their freedom and power. And then when men stare they act offended, as if they don’t expect them to stare. But Mary doesn’t do this. Mary is more beautiful than any of those women. But she doesn’t show it all off, as if she is trying to impress the world. Instead, she is content to rejoice in the husband God gives her and in the Son God placed inside of her. She finds her freedom in her God who saves her.
God caused the eternal Son of God to be conceived in her womb in order to be the savior of all sinners everywhere. Mary trusted in this. She believed God’s Word. As Elizabeth said, “blessed is the one who believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” And this is the best reason why Mary is a great example for all Christian girls and indeed for all Christians. She trusted God’s promise of salvation. So just as she guarded in her womb the very Son of God in the flesh, we learn from her to guard this Word as our greatest treasure. We are blessed as she is blessed when God gives us the very flesh and blood of his Son to eat and drink in his Supper. And we have the example of Mary to treasure up God’s promises in our hearts. From his Word, God gives us the faith to say with Mary, “Let it be according to your Word.”
Zechariah is also a great example for Christian boys. First, he serves as high priest in the Temple. This means that he would teach the people. This is what all Christian boys should learn to do. Whether they become pastors or they are fathers and husbands, God calls them to serve those whom he puts under their care. They are to teach God’s Word as the heads of their homes. As St. Paul says, “Fathers, train your children in the fear and instruction of the Lord.” When mom is the only one bringing the kids to church while dad stays home or does something else, then the children learn that church isn’t for guys. But Zechariah is a great example of a man who serves under God. He is a leader in God’s house. But this is not as a lord. Rather, it is as a humble servant. When you serve as a husband and a father, then you are the head of your home. But this is not as an overlord. It is as a servant, just as Zechariah was.
Zechariah spoke out of turn, questioning how God could give his wife a child. For this God disciplined Zechariah by not allowing him to speak until the child was born. God was causing his wife to give birth to John the Baptist, the last great prophet who would prepare the way for Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior of all. John would preach repentance. But first, God would teach Zechariah to repent. And this is a great example for Christian boys. Don’t be afraid to repent when you have sinned. Humble yourself under God. Because you may be the head of your wife and of your home. But God is your head. You and your family are both serving God. And this means that you learn to acknowledge your sins before God. While you might be stronger than your wife and children, you learn from Zechariah that you are weak before God.
Finally, Zechariah is a great example to Christian boys because he confesses the truth and teaches it to his child. After Zechariah signaled to the people that the child’s name was John, as God had commanded him, he was then able to speak. And when he spoke, he gave a beautiful confession of what God was doing. “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel who has visited his people and redeemed them!” What a great confession of the gospel! God himself has visited his people in the flesh by being born of a Virgin. He came to redeem them. He came to fulfill the oath that he swore to Abraham, that he would save us from sin and guilt so that we can serve him without fear. And then he teaches his child, “You, my child shall be called the prophet of the most high, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.”
What a faithful father! Faithful fathers learn to humble themselves before God. They endure discipline from God. And then they teach it to their children. This is what we should teach our sons to pursue. We should teach them to look up to faithful fathers, such as Zechariah. Sure, their children may not grow up to be great preachers like John the Baptist. But, God-willing, they will learn to be faithful fathers and husbands who confess the truth of Christ with courage.
The world is always attacking what God instituted. They attack the institution of marriage and the family by teaching our children that true happiness is in having complete control over your own body and doing whatever gives you pleasure. And they mock the institution of Christ’s sacrament, teaching us that it is absurd to eat the body and blood of Jesus. But God teaches us in marriage that our bodies don’t belong to us. A husband doesn’t have the right to his own body, neither does a wife have a right to her own body. Instead, they are one flesh. And in a similar, yet mysterious way, we are united to Christ’s body. We belong to him. He gives us his own flesh and blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of our sins and our eternal salvation. He gave his life unto death in order to save his bride. And in this way, he blesses his institution of marriage, his institution of the church, and all Christian duties on earth. He blesses us with his Word, just as he did with Mary and Zechariah. May we learn from them both to trust in his Word with confidence. Amen.