As I was reflecting on today’s Scripture, I kept being drawn back to the Advent Bible study lesson from this week. We looked at the news headlines for the week. Some of them included: California shooter tied to terrorist, US Army changing dog tags, North Korea claims it has an H-bomb, Media unloads on Trump, Scalia’s comments racist, Pearl Harbor Day ceremonies to remember attack, Remembering John Lennon 35 years later, plus protests in Chicago. It was hard to find good news among the darkness. I did find the birth announcement for Kimye’s new baby boy.
The news is full of stories of people and places that need reconciliation. They need light in the darkness. That is what we’re waiting for in Advent. We’re waiting for the Light to overcome the darkness. That’s the difficulty about Scripture readings in Advent. We read about the Light having come in the Christ child. We talk of salvation having already come. Yet, we see so much darkness in our world.
We are drawn to Christmas parties with friends and shopping malls decorated for Christmas. We listen to music about the joy and wonder of children at Christmas time. We hope that we’ve been good enough for Santa to leave presents under our tree, because Christmas is about reclaiming the innocence we had as children. We need to believe in the miracles and possibilities of hope and peace. We want to go back to the times when we believed that the Light could overcome the darkness.
Zechariah’s song that Lawson read this morning speaks of Light, darkness, hope and salvation. Before I tell you about his song, I want to remind us of who Zechariah was.
Zechariah was a priest. He and his wife Elizabeth were childless. They had long prayed for a son, but, now, they were past the age of having children. Zechariah was serving in the Temple. His lot had come up to go into the Temple and burn the incense. When Zechariah was in the Holy of Holies at the altar of incense, an angel came to him. The angel, who we know is Gabriel because he came with a message from God and began his proclamation with “do not be afraid”, the angel told Zechariah that he and Elizabeth would have a son that they would name John.
Zechariah took this unbelievable news with some doubt. The angel muted Zechariah for his disbelief. Zechariah had such amazing news to share when he emerged from the Holy of Holies, but had no way to share the news. Not only was this son going to be the answer to their prayers, he was going to have a Divine mission. The spirit of prophesy would be upon him like Elijah. He would lead the people of Israel back to God and he will go before the Lord preparing the way of salvation. But, Zechariah could say nothing.
Zechariah was mute all the while Elizabeth was pregnant. Finally, when Zechariah was asked what to name his son, Zechariah was able to speak. And, he said the child’s name would be John. Zechariah was so excited to see his son. He was so excited to be able to speak again. He was so filled with the Holy Spirit that he sang.
Zechariah’s song was much like that of Mary’s we read last week, but in many ways different. Mary looked forward to her son while Zechariah sang with his son in his arms. Both sang of what God had done and what God would do. Both sang empowered by the Spirit. Both remembered God’s faithfulness to His covenant with Abraham. The first 7 verses of Zechariah’s song are much like Mary’s praising God for His saving acts throughout the history of the Jewish people.
But, Zechariah’s song was prophetic. He prophesied by the power of the Spirit about who his son would be and what he would do. He was a proud new papa holding his long-awaited son, looking at him with profound love and seeing all the possibility that lay ahead of him. In that moment, Zechariah was able to see his son as God saw John and had eyes of the Spirit to see what he would do and who he would become.
Zechariah said to his son, John: you, my child, will be a prophet of the Most High God because you will go ahead of the Lord to prepare the way for His coming. You will present the offer of salvation to the people and show them the way to be saved through the forgiveness of their sins. Because of God’s deep compassion and heartfelt mercy, God’s light is breaking through. The dawn of Heaven, God’s Sunrise, is breaking through the darkness. The sunshine will shine upon and give light to those living in darkness. You, child, will show us the way, step by step, guiding us down the path of peace. (combo of CEB translation and MSG paraphrase)
Perhaps we could see discipleship in that way. We often think of discipleship as being like Christ in devotion and service.
What if discipleship is also about being a herald for Christ?
What would it be like for us to show others the path of peace?
What would we say if we presented Christ’s offer of salvation to the people around us?
I think Christmas time is a good time to be a herald of the light. People around us are searching for the true meaning of Christmas. We all get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas cookies and holiday gifts. But, we Christians know that behind all the glitzy wrapping paper and twinkling lights is the anticipation of Christ and the celebration of God’s gift of salvation in His Son.
But, here’s my problem with Christmas this year. I haven’t see many signs of Christmas yet. I watched all the Christmas TV specials the week after Thanksgiving, but it seems there hasn’t been any good Christmas specials on. I can’t find the classic movies like White Christmas, Holiday Inn or Home Alone. The stores don’t seem to have as much holiday cheer as I had anticipated – Christmas seems contained to a corner in the back of the store. I’ve only been told Merry Christmas once, besides Tracy Ellis who told me after we were discussing the matter. I haven’t seen any good war on Christmas stories on the news or Facebook, since the Starbucks cup conspiracy.
If it weren’t for the star on the grain elevator, our sanctuary decorations, and my endless Christmas music playlist, I’d have a hard time seeing that it’s Christmas time. So, I’d like you to help me find the signs of Christmas.
Where have you seen or experienced holiday cheer?
Is it too soon to say Merry Christmas?
Do we see more about Santa than Christ?
– On the Christmas specials, I’ve heard as much music about Christ as about Santa Claus.
Do the signs of Christmas point people to Christ?
What are we doing to point people to Christ this season?
– I ordered Bibles to give to all the families with the Angel Tree gifts. Just pray they come in time. The shipping information said 4 – 8 business days and the families are coming to get the gifts on the 7th business day from when I ordered the Bibles.
Every Christmas and Easter, I challenge you to invite someone to worship with us for the holiday. People are looking for the true meaning of Christmas and we are the only place they’re going to find Christ. It can be hard to talk to people about our faith or ask them what they know about Christ. But, often, I think, people are just waiting for an opportunity to find Christ. A simple invitation to Christmas Eve might just be what they want.
Of all the people new to our fellowship over the past several years, all but one has had a relationship with someone in the church. So, I’m not going to ask you to walk up to a stranger in the grocery store or at the post office. Ask someone you already know who may not have a church to go to if they want to come join us for candlelight and singing and celebrate with us the true meaning of Christmas.