Scripture: Luke 1:67-79 (alternate reading for the Christmas vigil: Matthew 1:1-25)
67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying, 68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people, 69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71 that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us; 72 to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant, 73 the oath which he swore to our father Abraham, 74 to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life. 76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78 through the tender mercy of our God, when the day shall dawn upon us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Old Testament Reading: 2 Samuel 7:1-5,8-11,16
1 Now when the king dwelt in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies round about, 2 the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” 3 And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart; for the LORD is with you.” 4 But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, 5 “Go and tell my servant David, `Thus says the LORD: Would you build me a house to dwell in? 8 Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David, `Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel; 9 and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.'”
Meditation: Does the proclamation of the Gospel fill you with joy and hope? When the Lord comes to redeem us he fills us with his Holy Spirit, the source of our joy and hope in the promises of God.
John the Baptist was born shortly before Mary delivered her son, Jesus. When John was circumcised on the eighth day according to the Jewish rite, his father Zechariah was “filled with the Holy Spirit” and with great joy. Inspired by the Holy Spirit he spoke out a prophetic word and hymn of blessing for the work of redemption which God was about to accomplish in Christ. He foresaw the fulfillment of God’s promise to David and his descendants that David’s dynasty would endure forever through the coming of the Messianic King (2 Samuel 7:16). This King would establish peace and security for his people. We often think of peace as the absence of trouble. The peace which the Messiah brings cancels the debt of sin and restores our broken relationship with God.
The Holy Spirit gave Zechariah a vision for his own son as a prophet and forerunner who would prepare the way for the Messiah. Every devout Jew longed for the day when the Messiah would come. Now Zechariah knows beyond a doubt that that day is very near. Like Zechariah, the Holy Spirit wants to give us vision, joy, and confidence in the knowledge of God’s merciful love, protection, and care which he offers us through his Son Jesus Christ. Like the Baptist, we too are called to prepare the way that leads to Christ. Life is a journey and we are either moving towards the Lord or away from the Lord. The Lord comes to visit us each day with his life-giving Word and Spirit. Those who hunger for the Lord will not be disappointed. He will draw them to himself and show them his love and mercy.
In sending the Messiah God has made a gracious visit to his people to redeem them. This was the mission for which Jesus Christ was sent into the world – to redeem those sold for sin and sold under sin. In the feast of the Incarnation we celebrate the gracious gift of God in sending his only begotten Son to redeem us. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit may inspire us and fill us with joy and boldness to proclaim the message of the Lord’s visitation and redemption.
“Lord Jesus, you have been gracious and merciful towards your people. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may bear witness to the joy of the Gospel to those around me.”
Psalm 89:2-5, 27, 29
2 For your steadfast love was established for ever, your faithfulness is firm as the heavens.
3 You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant:
4 `I will establish your descendants for ever, and build your throne for all generations.'” [Selah]
5 Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!
27 And I will make him the first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth.
28 My steadfast love I will keep for him for ever, and my covenant will stand firm for him.
29 I will establish his line for ever and his throne as the days of the heavens.
A Daily Quote from the early church fathers: My words will not pass away, by an anonymous early author from the Greek church
“‘O forerunner of Christ!… O Baptist inspired by God! We glorify Christ who bowed his head before you in the Jordan and sanctified the nature of mortal humankind… O wise John the forerunner, you have looked down from the bank of the river upon the glory of the Father’s Word, even the Son as he stood in the waters; and you have seen the Spirit descend as a dove, cleansing and enlightening the ends of the earth. To you the mystery of the Trinity was revealed; and to you we sing, honoring your divine festival.
“O Baptist and forerunner, strengthened by the divine grace of Christ you have shown us the lamb that takes away all the sins of the world (John 1:29,35-36), and with joy you have this day brought two disciples to him (John 1:35-42). Entreat him that peace and great mercy may be given to our souls.” (excerpt from SYNAXIS OF JOHN THE BAPTIST)