Lectionary reading for 12/4/2021: Luke 1:68-79; Malachi 4:1-6; Luke 9:1-6
Selected passage for reflection: Luke 1:68-79
Luke 1:68-79 (NIV)
“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[a] 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.”
I love Advent. It is a season of waiting, which is usually something I hate, but Advent creates a space in the midst of the holidays that acknowledges life is hard and Christmas doesn’t always feel jolly. This year, that acknowledgement hits me a bit more deeply. We’re almost two years into a global pandemic. So on top of all the personal baggage we all bring into the holidays every year, we’re also carrying the weight of a global tragedy that we haven’t been able to fully understand or mourn because we’re still in its midst. Did I mention that not a day goes by that doesn’t bring with it at least one heartbreaking headline? It is A LOT. We need to acknowledge it and sit with it for a bit before we can move forward. And Advent is perfect for that.
Today’s reading is also known as Zechariah’s song. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth are both well past childbearing age, but one day an angel tells them that they are going to have a son and that he (John the Baptist) will become a prophet who prepares the way for God’s arrival (Jesus). Zechariah has a hard time believing this and asks for a sign so he can be sure. The angel tells Zechariah that he won’t be able to speak until his son is born (probably not the sign he was hoping for). Zechariah is silent for nine months. Luke 1:68-79 are the first words he speaks on the eighth day after the birth of his son.
I love Zechariah’s song for the same reasons that I love advent. It is a song of hope in the midst of hardship. It acknowledges that the world is not as it should be. We are surrounded by very real problems like hate, oppression, fear, pain, and violence. These problems just feel too big and too complicated for us to solve. It’s easy to look at all that is broken around us and feel completely overwhelmed by it. It’s just too much. And yet.
Zechariah’s song reminds us that there is also hope, and hope will win in the end. This hope does not look like blind optimism or toxic positivity. It’s more than just the belief that one day we’ll get to go to heaven and not have to worry about this world any longer. This hope is real and tangible. It is rooted in the belief that what is broken now will one day be repaired. What is wrong will be made right. It trusts that God is coming into the world to bind up the brokenhearted and to set captives free.
Zechariah’s hope does not shy away from the darkness. It sees it and proclaims that our loving and merciful God will “shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” It’s a hope that is rooted in honesty and action. This is the kind of hope we need right now.
My prayer for you this Advent is that you are able to choose hope, joy, and peace in the midst of your hardships. Carve out some time and space today to let yourself feel your hard feelings and mourn what has been hard for you this year. Then find ways to actively choose hope and joy. You might try doing something that brings you joy, making a list of things you’re grateful for, or simply taking some deep centering breaths after a good cry.
God, we are waiting for a brighter future, but we grow weary of waiting for the darkness to subside. Help us to wait in hope. We confess that there are times when we don’t want to see the brokenness around us. Help us to hope honestly. We know that we are called to do more than wait. Empower us to turn our hope into action. In the midst of it all, help us to rest in the truth that we are fully known and fully loved by you.
About the Author
Jessie Best Chambers lives and works in Richmond, VA. Originally from North Carolina, she did her undergraduate work at Appalachian State University before obtaining a master’s in Theological Studies from North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago. In her free time, you can usually find her taking a walk with her husband or reading a murder mystery. Jessie loves the outdoors, the Old Testament, and photos of dogs in dinosaur costumes.