The Dawn From on High Shall Break Upon Us

Let us seek him with all our heart, all of our mind, and all of our strength.

Christians are a people of hope, and we have reason to be. Our hope is not a naive hope, but a hope based on the evidence of God’s unconditional love for us revealed to us in the incarnation, death and resurrection of our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. This is an astounding hope. Because of Jesus, we can all say, as the English slave trader and later, a noted abolitionist, wrote in his now beloved spiritual, Amazing Grace, “I once was lost but now I am found.” This is the reason for our hope. This hope was articulated, too, by Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, in what is called the Canticle of Zechariah in Luke 1: 68-79: Zechariah, at the circumcision of his son, John, suddenly able to speak again, joyfully begins to sing, under the influence of the Holy Spirit:

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“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty savior, born of the house of his servant David. Through his holy prophets he promised of old that he would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us. He promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant. This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to set us free from the hands of our enemies, free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.”

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The hope that had remained alive in the people over the long centuries, that was promoted, offered, cajoled, again and again by the prophets, that survived sometimes only in the hope and faith of a small remnant of believers during their many periods of conquest and exile, and the many times when the people had abandoned the path of God for the countless paths of the world, was now being fulfilled. This is what Zechariah is so joyfully expressing in his canticle. The time of salvation had arrived.

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This hope that imbues our faith is powerfully expressed in the last stanza of this canticle: “In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
This is why we have hope. Because, despite our sinfulness, our weaknesses, our foolishness, “God so loved us that he sent his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). This is the reason for our hope. The love of God was made flesh and walked among us in Jesus Christ. On the cross, He revealed to us the depth of Father’s love for us. In this act of total self-giving he saved us from our greatest enemies, sin and death.

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In his Resurrection, our hope for eternal life in the presence of the One-Who-Is-Love was opened to us again, forever. Our hope, then, is real, and it is proper to all who seek him with sincere and humble hearts. Let us, then, seek him with all our heart, all of our mind, and all of our strength. This is why Christians are a people of hope. Thanks be to God.

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