67 John’s father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied,
68 “Bless the Lord God of Israel
because he has come to help and has delivered his people.
69 He has raised up a mighty savior for us in his servant David’s house,
70 just as he said through the mouths of his holy prophets long ago.
71 He has brought salvation from our enemies
and from the power of all those who hate us.
72 He has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and remembered his holy covenant,
73 the solemn pledge he made to our ancestor Abraham.
He has granted 74 that we would be rescued
from the power of our enemies
so that we could serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness in God’s eyes,
for as long as we live.
76 You, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.
77 You will tell his people how to be saved
through the forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of our God’s deep compassion,
the dawn from heaven will break upon us,
79 to give light to those who are sitting in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide us on the path of peace.”
80 The child grew up, becoming strong in character. He was in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.
Thoughts on the passage:
The third Sunday of Advent is traditionally the week of Joy. The third Advent candle is often pink to represent a break from what was originally designed as a more austere, Lent-like, season of preparation. On top of that, today we are talking about the hope we have that in the coming of Jesus, we will find a savior. These seem like reasons to celebrate. Yet, when I planned the worship service this morning I built in a prayer of confession. I did this because, I believe that to have joy, we must also have a sense of sorrow and to celebrate a savior, we need to know what we are being saved from.
The 1st century Jews had several reasons they needed a savior. They were trapped in a class structure that left most of them in poverty. They were under the rule of a powerful empire. They struggled to be faithful to the laws of their faith and were left in a constant cycle of sin and sacrifice in an effort to maintain their relationship with God. There was no doubt that they needed a savior.
We see this echoed in the words of Zechariah as he foretells both the coming of his son John and of the coming of Jesus. With the phrases, “salvation from our enemies” and “forgiveness of our sins,” it is clear this coming savior is meant to lift the people of their despair. The coming savior is a reason for great joy. With the birth of Christ, people will have the savior they long for.
As we prepare for Christmas, I think it is important for us to ask ourselves what we are hoping to be saved from. When we sing “Christ the savior is born” on Christmas Eve, what savior are we hoping for? An important part of our Advent preparation is raising our own awareness of what it is that we need from the birth of Jesus. If we do not have this as an anchor, it is easy to lose the reason for the season and get distracted by the glitz and glamour of the secular celebrations and miss the deeper religious meaning.
One of the great things about our Christmas hymns is that they help us to remember the needs and the longings that we might feel in our hearts. Songs like “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” help us to capture some of that need for salvation with verses like, “The captives from their prisons free, and conquer death’s deep misery.” Another favorite, “Joy to the World,” uses images of thorns infesting the ground as a reminder of the way that sin can cover our hearts and stifle us. Just like those people two thousand years ago, we too are longing for a savior.
I think is important to embrace the brokenness of our own lives. I know that I for one, like to minimize it. I prefer to stay happy and upbeat and to try and find the positives in life. For that reason, I would rather gloss over issues like sin and captivity. To prepare for Christmas however, I think it is important that we spend time honestly thinking about what we need saving from.
We all have different needs. For those who have lost a loved one recently, we might need to be saved from our grief and loss. We might be longing for some peace and comfort as we deal with this struggle. Others might be praying for release from an illness that inflicts and limits them. Others might be struggling with addiction. Still others might just need saving from a plight of endless bills and debt. If we are honest we all need some saving.
Not only do we individually need saving, our church, our community, and our world needs saving. Jesus is not just born for my salvation or your salvation, but is born to save the whole world. It is probably easier to think of the ways that our world could use saving. Rising threats of climate change in the coming century pose a stark risk to people around the world. Continued political unrest and religious extremism, whether it is terrorist attacks from groups like ISIS or purges like those occurring in Myanmar, it is obvious that our world needs the Prince of Peace.
Advent is a time to acknowledge these needs and give voice to them. This is a time where we should be crying out to God with our hopes and aspirations for the coming Christ. Now is a time to take stock of our lives and look for the ways that we are broken and in need of a savior. When we are able to embrace these things, it will give us a better sense of why we are celebrating Christmas. We cannot be joyful about Christ’s birth if we do not believe that Christ is going to make a difference in our lives.
This is a season of joy, we are in need of a savior and one has been promised to us. Let us look within and without and see the ways that Christ is offering us new life. Let us embrace our fears and failings as we wait with hope for the joyful needs of the birth of the Messiah, the Savior of the World.
Questions to Ponder:
What is it that you most need saving from?
Where do you see brokenness in the lives of people around you that Christ might offer hope to?
How do we embrace our failings and not get overwhelmed with the needs as we wait for Christ?
Loving God, in this season of Advent, help us to embrace the darkness that we live in. Fill us with a sense of quiet peace as we wait for the coming Light. Open us up to the joy of the transformation that is coming in the birth of Christ. Help us get ready to celebrate once more the promise that comes with Christmas. Amen