Chelsea Van Der Poel explores how regardless the season, God's goodness creates a hopeful new day.
On the twenty-third day of Advent, 2021, Teresa Brierley encourages us to shine on those living in darkness as God guides our feet.
The dawn of peace
‘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
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
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 1:76-79 NRSV
Here we are two days out from Christmas Day, 2021, the coming of Light into our world and the invitation is for us to look at this text from Luke, the ‘Benedictus’ of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. This prophetic canticle or song of praise (Luke 1:76-79), from the lips of Zechariah serves to remind us that John is destined to be the bridge between the old and the new.
The God of peace is about to break into our world, a God revealed to us in the person of Jesus who will bring mercy, wholeness, harmony, well-being, security, justice, and hope. Jesus will “give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” At last darkness is dispelled and our world is filled with light and peace.
What a beautiful image of guiding our feet. In this Advent season we take the time to look both where our feet have trod and where they might tread. We remember the year of the impact of the global pandemic, of violence, of the effects of climate change, of poverty, loneliness and separation and also of the anguish of mental ill-health. We also recall those who have worked tirelessly to ensure that love will rise up, like the faith, hope and love of Elizabeth and Zechariah.
The central themes in this short passage are about God’s loving action in history, of God’s prophetic word, and of God’s promised salvation. Zechariah is filled with the Holy Spirit after he and Elizabeth were gifted with a son. Zechariah sings out, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel.” Are we able to joyfully sing out to God for the many gifts which have been bestowed on us, our families, and our communities?
Advent, our time of preparation for the coming of Emmanuel, calls us to remember God’s covenant with humanity. “For God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son" (John 3:16). We are called to “serve God and all of creation without fear, in holiness and righteousness all our days” (Luke 1:75), so that at last darkness is dispelled and our world is filled with light and peace.
Teresa Brierley is Director of Pastoral Ministries in the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, on Wonnarua and Awabakal Country. Teresa provides support and direction for the groups who assist in the diocese’s mission and outreach in faith formation, liturgy, youth, outreach, social justice, ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, chaplaincies, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ministries, families and women.
Teresa is married to Allen and they have five children and a number of grandchildren. She has served the church’s pastoral support of the community in parishes, schools, health and community groups.
Come Emmanuel, into our hearts and our homes. Bless us with the light of your love so that we may live the joy of your coming each and every day.
Photograph: Brooke Prentis, Sunrise, Warriewood Beach, Garigal Country, New South Wales
Visual Description: Sun rising behind clouds on the horizon, over the ocean.