Luke 1:68-79 is known as the Canticle of Zechariah. It is the song that John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, breaks into after regaining his voice at John’s circumcision ceremony. It is a pious prayer of joy, for it recognizes the faith history of Israel is being fulfilled. It expresses the immanent presence of the promised Messiah, as well as the role that John will play in announcing the Messiah to the world.

Yes. Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has, in fact, come to his people to set them free. This One who has come is Jesus. He, indeed, was born of the house of David, as was foretold, for Mary was of the line of David. As the prophets had prophesied from of old, he is the One, the only One who could set us free from our enemies, from the hands of all those who hate us. As Christians, we understand this to mean more than just our human enemies, or persecutors. Jesus freed us from our greatest enemies, those we call sin and death. He renewed the freedom for which we were made. Our faith in Jesus, the Messiah, has freed us to worship him without fear all the days of our lives.

Zechariah’s song recognizes the significance of his son John, who would come to be known as The Baptist. Zechariah, if you remember, had been visited by an angel in the Holy of Holies on one of the days he was serving there. Because he doubted the message, that his barren and aged wife and he would would have a baby, he was struck dumb, unable to speak, that is, until the blessed event of their child’s birth and circumcision when he was given his name, John, a name that was not common to his family. Zechariah, at that moment was filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak again. He prophesied his own son’s future importance in preparing the way of the Lord. And so it was. John grew up to be that voice crying in the desert, preparing the people for the real, immanent presence of the Messiah, the Lamb of God, who had finally come, and who would set his people free.

His song ends with these beautiful words. “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn shall break upon us to shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Jesus, is “the dawn” that has broken upon us, shining the light of the Father’s mercy and forgiveness upon us. The new day has come. The ancient promise was fulfilled. His light has broken upon us and pushed back the darkness of sin and death with his unconditional love and his mercy. His unconquerable light of truth has shown us the way to peace. Should not our hearts swell with song, just as Zechariah’s did on the day of John the Baptist’s circumcision? Ought we not be the evidence of that light in the world with our very lives. Is it not the responsibility of our faith to bring the light of Christ to the world through our actions of love and mercy, compassion and hospitality? Out we not be light bearers to a world so full of pain and sorrow? Let us, then, live out the bright joy of our faith, so that others might see it and be drawn to it. This is our happy duty as Christians alive with this light today.

Lord, we believe; help our unbelief. Give us the grace of a faith humble enough to know you intimately, and wise enough to joyfully accept the fact that you are the dawn that has shown upon us, that lights the path to peace. And give us the grace of joyous courage so that we can bring your light to our families, friends, neighbors, and those who are still wandering in the shadows for whatever reason. We pray this in your name, Jesus. Amen!

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