LIGHTING THE CANDLE
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 us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
As a boy I had several bouts of croup that always got worse at night. I remember lying awake wheezing, barking like a seal, longing for daylight. Years later, as a hospital chaplain, I sat with patients who could not wait for the morning light to come. But it is not just the ill who long for the morning. Also, people who are lonely, heartbroken, fearful, and guilt-ridden long for the morning. It all feels so much worse at night. Like ancient Israel’s psalmist, we are like watchmen “who watch for the morning” (Psalm 130:6). Poet Robert Frost writes in his poem, “Acquainted with the Night”, about his nighttime angst:
I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
In reading the Old Testament one cannot but feel the anguish of night and the longing for God’s new day. The prophet Isaiah tells about his people “who walked in darkness” and “have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2). The last of the Old Testament prophets, Malachi, does not give up hope. He foretells the coming of God’s new Day: “the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings” (Malachi 4:2). Thus, the last page of the Old Testament ends, looking forward to the coming of the light of the world: Jesus.
Today’s Scripture is from a song by Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. He celebrates the coming of God’s longed-for light, Jesus. Filled with the Holy Spirit and the words from the angel Gabriel, Zechariah rejoices in the coming birth of Jesus. Zechariah’s jubilant song is steeped in the language of psalms and Old Testament prophets. He proclaims that by God’s tender mercy “the dawn from on high will break upon us.” Jesus is represented as the sun rising upward, breaking through the darkness of sin and death. Jesus comes from the heavens to become one with us and for us.
Zechariah prophesies that Christ’s coming will “give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death… Sin and death will pass away, as the true Light shines! As God’s true Light, Christ comes “to guide our feet into the way of peace.” For the only way to peace for our world is to follow Christ, directed by His light. He will lighten the darkness!
PALMS DOWN/PALMS UP
Loving Lord, sometimes our world seems so dark and our nights long. We can feel all alone. Thank you that our Lord Jesus walked this earth, and knows and feels our hurt. Help us today by your Holy Spirit to follow Jesus and to walk in the light of His way. Surprise us with your light! Amen.