Monday, 24 December 2012

Zechariah's Song

Zechariah’s song is recorded in verses 67 to 79 of Luke chapter 1.  It is a song of praise.  It expresses great hope, the kind of hope that works when we remember that God is involved with us.  In a way, it is summed up by the picture of a new day dawning that Zechariah uses towards the end of the song.  As one commentator (Leith Fisher) points out: “These grace-filled words would have special significance for Zechariah and his people, living in dark times.  The picture of the dawning of the new day is striking.  We watch more sunsets than sunrises.  How powerfully the sunrise can speak to us of God’s unfailing purposes, and the inexhaustible hope God offers.”
Zechariah’s words are these: His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.  He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us — to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.  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.”
Zechariah’s song tells of the mercy of God and compares it to the light of the sun.  He speaks of the compassion of God for his people and the way in which he protects them.  This is one of the earliest expressions of what God is like and how that is seen in the person of Christ. 
As a priest, when he emerged from the sanctuary of the temple, Zechariah is supposed to pronounce the blessing from Numbers 6 – the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. 
Zechariah’s song is a little different, but links to the themes of that blessing.  He looks for the protection of God.  That protection is there for us too.  Like the blessing recorded in the book of Numbers, his words end with an expression of peace.  His song is one for those in the dark.  He utters these words against a background of oppression.  But he rejoices that now the people will be able to serve God without fear. 
Can you imagine Zechariah hold his baby son, John, in his arms and singing this song.  Trevor Dennis conjures up that picture.  “To take any newborn child or grandchild into our arms is to hold a great mystery.  The miracle of birth has the knack of putting us in touch with heaven.  The infant John puts Zechariah in touch with the salvation God brings, with his forgiveness, his mercy and warm compassion, his light, his hope and truth, and his peace.”

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