Friday 24th December 2021
St Luke 1: 67 – 80
Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:
‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favourably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty saviour for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon[h] us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.’
The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.
When he was a baby, my second son spent a lot of time sleeping in the organ loft of the very high Anglican church in Brighton where I was solo soprano for some years. It was the source of much merriment among the choir that he would often wake up just at the beginning of the Benedictus; a fact that was attributed to him being called Benedict. Of course it was no such thing – it was usually that he wanted another feed or at least some amusing company and he certainly absorbed a great deal of choral music in his early years. But if you are going to wake up for anything during a long service I think that Zachariah’s song of praise and thanksgiving and prophecy about his newborn son John is a good place to start your spiritual journey.
On this day we remember too that Mary’s baby puts in an appearance and would also have been carried everywhere she went in his early days, as he too would need feeding and would need company. It’s quite a thing to be born with all those weighty expectations on your shoulders whether your name is John, Benedict or Jesus. Earthly parents are bad enough with their plans and dreams and often unrealistic hopes for their children’s futures. We can only begin to imagine what it was like for the mother of the Son of God. After the surprise and necessary adaptations of her life after the annunciation she now has to deal with the fact that other people recognise what is happening to her and have their own ideas about how this baby will develop and grow and how ancient prophecies will be fulfilled by this tiny scrap of life that has come to her in the most unpromising of circumstances.
Zachariah says quite clearly that John will prepare the way for the Messiah. And it’s a miracle. Every birth is a miracle but both John’s and Jesus’ births are so extra-ordinary that they had the power to change the world, to give light to those who sit in darkness and to guide our feet into the way of peace. Huge expectations; huge promises. But we are all in the hands of a God for whom all things are possible, so we give thanks this Christmas Eve for the commonplace and the miraculous sitting side-by-side in the glory that we call human life.
Thanks be to God!
As your purposes unfold on this holy day we are in awe of your presence and care in the midst of everyday life. Help us to keep sight of the promise and the love that we celebrate at Christmas.