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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lighting the Candle

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.
Luke 1:76-79

As a child I had occasional bouts with what was called the “croup”. Croup was a childhood disease of coughing, hoarseness, and difficulty breathing. But what I remember most about the croup was that it was always worse at night. I would lie in bed for what seemed hours, feeling the fearful tightening in my throat, and long for the light of day.

In the years since, I have learned that most of life’s ills are worse at night, accentuated by the darkness. Loneliness is always worse at night, as is our grief, heartbreak, guilt, and fear of what will happen. And like the psalmists of old, I have looked for the break of day “more than the watchmen wait for the morning” (Psalm 130:6).

In reading the Old Testament Scriptures one feels the urgent longing and waiting for God’s new morning. More than the watchmen wait for the morning, so the psalmists and prophets wait for the light of Christ’s coming. The last of the prophets, Malachi, writing on the very last page of the Old Testament, longs for the time when the “sun of righteousness will rise” (Malachi 4:2).

Today’s Scripture text announces the soon-to-come rising of the foretold “sun of righteousness”. The text celebrates the birth of John the Baptist, “a prophet of the Most High”, who will announce the “sun of righteousness” rising. While the prophets of the Old Testament foretold Messiah’s coming, it is John the Baptist who will present Him to the world.

Our text contains the joyful song of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, which he sang at his son’s birth. Zechariah was an elderly priest whose barren wife miraculously conceived and gave birth to Messiah’s herald. The baby is given the name John, a shortened version of Jehohanan, meaning “the Lord is gracious”.

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Zechariah sings of the Lord’s grace in the dawning of Messiah’s new day. For Zechariah sees in Christ’s coming the long foretold “rising sun”. The One whom John the Baptist will declare comes “to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness”. The rising of the “sun of righteousness” will mean “the forgiveness of their sins”.

Like the sun rising on a cold winter morning gives life and warmth to all living things, so God’s “sun of righteousness” brings eternal life and glory. It happens just as the prophet Isaiah long ago foretold and longed to see: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light…For to us a child is born” (Isaiah 9:2, 6).

Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness,
those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
down the path of peace.

Luke 1:78-79 The Message




Loving God. We praise you today for your tender mercies, and that your Son has risen in our lives. Thank you that through Christ you forgive all our sins. Help us to live in the light of your new day. Drive from us the dark clouds of fear and doubt. Amen.

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