And thus begins the most famous response to Christmas in the gospel of Luke. When Mary finally comes to grips with the weight and certainty of the angel Gabriel’s message, she rejoices. While this was an appropriate response to being told she would be pregnant as the mother of Jesus, God in human form, it was not the only possible response.
78 By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.’ - Luke 1:78-79
Prophets played an important role in the times of Scripture. They had a way of cutting through all that was going on around them and pointing out where God was at work. We human beings, we need that. We need it because we get used to our routines and sight lines in life. We develop our ways of viewing the world that accommodates everything we think we know and think we need.
Every once in a while, we need a prophet to step in our way to help us to see what we haven’t been seeing.
In our text, the realities of life did not seem difficult to interpret. The daily life of the common person was still defined by oppression. The story of two babies being born didn’t seem to change anything. One was a baby born to an old Jewish couple (John the Baptist’s parents). The other was a young couple whose pregnancy and marriage may have been a bit out of the traditional order of things. There didn’t seem to be anything remarkable here.
But there was. Sometimes it takes a prophet to help us to see. These births were anything but ordinary. That young couple, Mary and Joseph, would bear into this world no ordinary baby. God was on the move. Humanity was being invaded by the tender mercy of God. It would flood over them like the breaking of dawn. The darkness and shadow of death that for so long had taken up residence in our expectation would be washed away in the light of Christmas.
So, Christmas is near. We know because of the Christmas music, gifts, decorations, parties, and all that we have come to expect. But let us also lift our eyes to see. Let us keep the words of the prophet in our ears so that we can recognize what is happening. In Christmas, “by the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high breaks upon us, to give light to we who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace.”
Dear Jesus, Christmas is near. Prepare our hearts for the opportunities to rejoice and give and love. In the midst of all that we expect from the season, lift our eyes to see You. Let us know your mercy and your peace. Free us from the darkness and the shadow of death so that we can walk in the way of your peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.