Tuesday 24 December 2019

Bible Book:

'You, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High.' (v. 76)

Luke 1:67-80 Tuesday 24 December 2019

Psalm: Psalm 100


Can you recall the fashion, a few years ago, for turning discarded wine bottles into attractive table lamps – or any similar example? It’s a metaphor for the Benedictus (vs. 68-79).

It was originally a psalm or prophecy constructed by devout Jews, probably linked to the daily round of worship in the Jerusalem Temple, any time in the century before Jesus was born. The authors wove together ideas from their scriptures (especially the Book of Psalms). They were reinforcing their conviction about God’s dealings with the people of Israel. From Abraham through Moses (the Sinai covenant is referred to in v. 72) to David, the great king and warrior, God’s consistent purpose for Israel was revealed. God would bring that purpose to fulfilment through a new David and a new prophet (v. 76 fulfils Malachi 3:1). Israel would at last be free of external threats, free to be the holy and righteous people God longed for (v. 73).

(The psalm on the lips of Mary in Luke 1:46-55 has a similar origin and purpose.)

The author of Luke 1-2 portrays Mary and Zechariah as recycling earlier Jewish poems. They are reminted to become useful vehicles for praising God for the births of Jesus and John. So, in today’s passage, Zechariah is inspired by the Holy Spirit (v. 67) to utter the Benedictus as a prophecy, now coming to fulfilment. A new day has dawned and death-dealing fears have been dispelled (vs. 78-79).

The opening section (vs. 68-75) now alludes to Jesus; the latter section (vs. 76-79) to John, who prepared the way for Jesus.

This ‘fulfilment’ was only the beginning of the struggle to make sense of Jesus. Yes, he had been grounded in Jewish faith and hope. However, his life as a whole, death and resurrection meant that his meaning was too big even for the imaginative new use of ancient Jewish psalmody. He was the world’s saviour.


To Ponder:

  • Psalms, hymns and songs continue to be crucial ingredients of Christian worship. What for you is the most meaningful Christmas hymn or carol? Why not explore with one or two others the rich symbolism in your Christmas favourites?
  • If you were asked to identify the metaphor or single sentence that best seems to sum up what Jesus means to you, what would it be? Why is it so memorable or powerful?
  • Have you ever tried your hand at writing a verse or poem that crystallises your feelings about Christmas? Why not have a go? (It doesn’t have to be long or complicated, but authentic!)
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