Friday 24 December 2010

Bible Book:

"And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins." (vv. 76-77)

Luke 1:67-79 Friday 24 December 2010


The name given to this song of Zechariah when it is used inchurch is the Benedictus (Latin for 'blessed'). In many ways thissong of praise, sung by his father at John the Baptist'scircumcision ceremony, operates (like the life of John himself) asa hinge between the Old and New Testaments. 

John is seen by the Gospel writers both as the last of the Hebrewprophets (Luke 1:17) and as one of the first believers inJesus as Messiah (in John's Gospel, for example, John pronounces,"Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John1:29)). The lamb is depicted in this 12th century 'CloistersCross'. 

The song opens with the traditional Hebrew blessing (the berukah)used and goes on to recite the mighty acts of God in saving thepeople of Israel from their enemies. In this section (vv. 68-75)there are many echoes of the Hebrew Scriptures: God's covenant love(hesed); God's remembering of his people (not a passiverecollecting but an active intervening on their behalf); God'sspeaking through the prophets. 

From verse 76 onwards, however, the song turns from the past to thefuture, and from the general to the specific. Zechariah, havingturned his eyes to heaven, now turns his attention to his baby sonand addresses him, answering the question posed at verse66: "You, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High".The echoes are still from the Hebrew Scriptures (Isaiah9:6), but John's place in the story is now defined: he will gobefore the Lord to give knowledge of salvation to God'speople. 

And on the turn of this hinge, the meaning of salvation seems tohave changed. In the early part of the canticle salvation ispresented as rescue from Israel's enemies. But salvation in verse77 is now focused on the experience of the forgiveness of sins.This clearly puts us into the world of the New Testament withechoes of 2 Corinthians 4:6 (and Luke24:46-47). On Christmas Eve this canticle prepares us for thecoming of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of theworld. 

To Ponder

What echoes of the Old Testament passages can youfind in this canticle?

How do you understand salvation? To what extentis it all about forgiveness or are there other themes that areimportant?

At midnight, across the world tonight, Christianpeople will meet to remember the mighty acts of God and ask God toact again in the here and now. What are your prayers for the worldtonight?

Previous Page Thursday 23 December 2010
Next Page Saturday 25 December 2010