Luke 1: 57 – 60, 67 – 80
Like their ancestors Abraham and Sarah, Zechariah and Elizabeth are blessed with a son in their old age. Zechariah is a priest, serving in the Temple when an angel of the Lord appears to him and says, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife, Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.”
Zechariah can’t believe it and he says to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” The angel replies, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God…because you did not believe my words…you will become mute…until these things occur.”
After months of being unable to utter a word, when John is born, Zechariah sings! In her book, “Through the Advent Door”, Jan Richardson says, “Zechariah sings! Full of wild hope, he sings! Knowing the state of the world, he sings.”
Zechariah’s son is born and he sings a song of praise to God…he sings a song of hope for the future – the future day when the light of God’s dawn shall break upon us…and in breaking upon us…the dawning light will finally, fully, break us open to God, Alpha and Omega…beginning and ending and beginning again! Advent is our time between ending and beginning…Advent is where we stand in a place of already been and not yet come…God’s light has come AND, God’s light is coming.
His son John is born, and “Zechariah sings! Full of wild hope, he sings! Knowing the state of the world, he sings.”
One of the things we love about Advent is that it’s our time to sing our favorite seasonal songs….just as there are special foods we only make for the holidays,…there is special music woven deep inside us that heralds Jesus coming again into the world…Songs that fill us with the promise of new beginnings, a better world, peace on earth, and hope for humanity. We sing and we remember God’s ancient and eternal promise of salvation and redemption.
God wraps his promise of salvation in the most beloved of gifts, A baby. All the hope for the world, wrapped in the Word made flesh. We gather at this table and remember God’s gift of Jesus in a manger, given to us again and again every Christmas…the gift that God never tires of giving us…
We gather at this table, and our hearts join in singing, “For unto us a child is born, unto us, a child is given…” What more blessed song is there than a baby’s borning cry that rewards a mother’s labor…and erases her cries of pain.
There is such promise in a new born…all things are possible. We look at a baby and we are inspired to dream dreams of a bright and happy future. We wish better for them than what we had, no matter how successful we have been or, all the more, if we have struggled and suffered, we wish a better world for our children…for ALL children. A baby reminds us that life continues. Babies bring joy in the present, and hope for the future.
Zechariah sings for his son a song of hope for a better world. Rejoicing he sings, “You will go before the Lord to prepare his way: to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of sins; the dawn from on high will break upon us…to give light to those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death.” We are always living in the shadow of death. Our own mortality is always a present reality. The creations of humankind are fleeting, an inhalation and exhalation of breath, a mere blink in the eye of eternal eons.
The increasing acts of human violence and the severity of recent natural events are casting fear and darkness all over the world. The days grow shorter, the nights get longer, and we sit in Advent darkness feeling the cold, shadow of death stealing over us…feeling despair and hopelessness, discouragement, and dismay nipping at our hearts…and in this creeping darkness…John’s task is to “go before the Lord to prepare his way” and to “guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Hope starts us on our Advent journey. Hope lets us take that hardest, first fearful step in the darkness. And Peace is the path we must follow in order to see God’s light.
Our first step in darkening days, is to step forward in Hope even when we can’t see God’s road ahead. To step forward and to watch, eyes and hearts straining to glimpse the dawn…straining to see first light, God’s light dawning – dawning anew on Christmas Day. Dawning to lead us out of the cold darkness and into God’s warm and peace filled light…
The way of Peace can’t be negotiated. “Truce” isn’t “Peace.” God’s Peace isn’t treaties negotiated between ambassadors and politicians seeking concessions and gains. God’s peace doesn’t flourish from embargos and sanctions. God’s Peace doesn’t come from “tolerating” others. God’s peace doesn’t come from walling “them” out and walling us in…
God’s Peace comes from love and acceptance. Lasting Peace comes from seeing how you are the same as your neighbor…not how you are different. Lasting Peace in our world, can only flow from loving your neighbors, and even your enemies, as you love yourself.
Do you hear in that commandment that peace can only begin when you love and accept yourself, first and foremost?
Peace can only begin when you love yourself as God loves you, Warts, faults, bad habits, and all. Peace begins when you can forgive yourself for your mistakes, missed opportunities, the blind fumbling, the stumbles, and the falls. That is why when we gather at Christ’s table we celebrate and remember that we are understood, we are known inside and out, for better and for worse.
We gather and remember we are forgiven, and loved…and that prepares the way for us to understand, and to forgive, and to love others…for better and for worse…to love, first and foremost. We gather at this table and we feast upon God’s love and God’s grace and mercy, and we drink our fill of God’s forgiveness.
We gather ’round this table and we listen for the old, familiar songs. This table sings to us of God’s promises fulfilled, and God’s promises yet to come. This table sings to us of what was, what is, and what will be! This table sings to us of God’s glory and God’s grace.
This table fills us with songs of peace on earth, good will toward all people; fills us with Glad Tidings of Comfort and Joy; and sends us out to sing from the mountaintops, our ancient Christmas song of hope and peace and God’s love for all people who on earth do dwell!
His son is born….and Zechariah sings. Full of wild hope, he sings. Knowing the state of the world, he sings.
Can we sing this Advent season?
With the sounds of bombs and gunshots echoing in our hearts?
Can we stand up and sing?
Can we sing Songs of praise…songs of thanksgiving…songs of joy?
Even knowing the state of the world we live in….
Can we sing songs of Hope? and Peace?
The child being born again in the manger says, we must sing.
We must sing of God’s promised new day…
We, good Christians All, must sing the Good News!
If not us, then who?