“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke1:76-79)
“Daddy, come help!” Having been a father, now, for 22 years, I find that those words still have the power to bring me out of a sound sleep into an adrenaline fueled state of alarm in an instant. Each of my children has uttered those words (or some variant) at some point. I have been summoned because of strange noises (‘I think that might just be the wind, buddy’), because there’s a guy sitting across the room (‘No, honey, that’s just your coat’), because there’s a monster in the closet (‘nothing there’), because of nightmares (‘Here’s a hug!’), because there’s a kitten in the room (‘No, sweety, there isn’t, and besides, you LIKE kittens!’). Most of the time, fears are allayed pretty quickly when I come into the room, turn on the light and speak lovingly (Ok, well, I TRY when it comes to that part). Light and love seem to be a winning combination when darkness and fear torment us.
Zechariah, giving his prophecy at the birth of his son John (the Baptist) seems to be well aware that darkness and fear are the universal human condition. We live as a sinful people born into spiritual blindness living in a world that is cursed because of our sin. And so there is much we don’t understand, and much that we fear. Because of this, as he looks forward to the Messiah, Zechariah is exuberant for he knows that the Messiah brings God’s love and light as the perfect antidote to our fear and darkness. So how does Jesus bring us love? Well, Zechariah says that he will “give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God…” So Jesus demonstrates to us the love of God in that he provides for us forgiveness that we might know salvation. In reading the rest of the gospel account, we know he did this by bearing our sin before God at the cross. Jesus brings us God’s love by personally securing for us God’s pardon. How does Jesus bring us light? He does it by revealing the truth both about ourselves (that we are sinners) and about God (that He is merciful and wants to pardon his people’s sins). And so the coming of Jesus is like the sunrise, bringing both light and love. And, dear friend, I believe these verses also speak to a yet greater day when Jesus will come again. And what a sunrise that will be. Darkness and all the evil that dwells within it will be banished forever! And as for the love of God – we shall know it, believe it, and understand it in a much fuller way!
Perhaps even as you read this, you find your heart yearning for that sunrise. Maybe the darkness has become oppressive. Dear friend, take heart in Jesus. If you’ve not known him before, Jesus offers you the opportunity to be reconciled to God and to have hope! If you already know Jesus, then you’ve experienced that personal sunrise of forgiveness and understanding. But how quickly we misplace the joy that goes along with it. Trials become heavy, and we often feel alone. We allow pain and loss to darken our hopes. It’s very difficult not to lose hope sometimes. And if such is the case for you right now, take consolation in Jesus; you have in him one who alone is able to really lighten the burden of the soul. And never forget, especially now in this season of Advent, that we must wait in hope for the coming of that truly grand sunrise which we ‘ve been promised. The darkness of this world will not last forever, nor will your struggles. One day, dawn will come, dispelling the chill of the Fall, as the warmth of full redemption and the brightness of glory encompasses God’s broken earth and his fallen children. And all shall be well; therefore, child of God, do take hope.