Scott Sanders launches our Advent series by getting lost in the bush and finding the humble path - at expense of his pride.
Rev Christine Redwood is the Lead Pastor at Seaforth Baptist Church in NSW.
Today's reading is Luke 1:68-79
I heard a song a few years ago which has stayed with me. I was in Indonesia and an Egyptian woman was singing. She was singing in Arabic, a language I don’t know, with no accompaniment. She kept repeating this one word: salaam, salaam. After she finished she translated: the peace of God to every race, the peace of God be in every place. I didn’t really need the translation, the music told me: this was a song filled with an ache for God to be at work.
I feel this ache.
She was teaching this song to remind us that she and other Christians in Egypt are singing to God in a land where they are a minority. There was first excitement when the Arab Spring happened. It seemed like injustice was finally going to be addressed, and then disappointment. Hers is a song calling on God to act.
Maybe because there are so many songs everywhere, I can forget that some songs are more powerful than others. Powerful songs are formed out of the ache. Zechariah has been serving God for a long time. But there is this ache. Underneath all the songs he has sung over the years about God’s goodness, there is a creeping fear. What is God doing? The Romans have grown more powerful. His own home is quieter than what he wished for. The songs he sings starts to taste bitter on his tongue.
And then an angel appears. Zechariah is frightened and loses his voice until a child is born. At the birth of the child, he is afraid no longer. Instead, he sings, the sound of his voice cracking, but getting stronger.
One old man sings with confidence the people around him haven’t seen in a long time. He sings almost foolish words about God coming and setting his people free. It seems like nonsense, it’s just a baby. Yet his words resonate.
Zechariah has gotten a glimpse of God’s plans. All the ancient promises he has sung about over the years are unfolding before his eyes. A saviour from the house of David is going to be raised up. This will be a person filled with God’s strength to accomplish the task at hand: rescue from enemies. God has not forgotten the covenant with Israel to bless all the families of the earth. The fear lifts as he sings.
This is how I need to learn to sing. I sing in church. I hear old carols, year in and year out and I remember that God does act. Sometimes when I sing I feel the ache and fear. God, we are not there. Save us. Be at work in this place. But as I sing about God rescuing us from our enemies through mercy, I realise God is singing to me. God is calling me to act, too. He calls me to keep practicing the peace of God in this place.
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68 “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has visited and redeemed his people.
69 He has sent us a mighty Savior
from the royal line of his servant David,
70 just as he promised
through his holy prophets long ago.
71 Now we will be saved from our enemies
and from all who hate us.
72 He has been merciful to our ancestors
by remembering his sacred covenant—
73 the covenant he swore with an oath
to our ancestor Abraham.
74 We have been rescued from our enemies
so we can serve God without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness
for as long as we live.
76 “And you, my little son,
will be called the prophet of the Most High,
because you will prepare the way for the Lord.
77 You will tell his people how to find salvation
through forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of God’s tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace.”