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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Today’s Reading | Luke 1:67–75  

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (NRSV)

Sometimes, there is no other way to fully express oneself than to sing.

Zechariah had been waiting in holy silence for the arrival of this promised son, his John, for so long. He and all of Israel had been waiting through generations of a seemingly silenced heaven for their ancestral promises to be fulfilled: for salvation, for a redeemer. Under the thumb of a foreign power, relegated to the status of second-class citizens, their deferred dream must have felt so urgent and yet so far away. And elderly, childless Zechariah, a priestly leader of his people and yet captive to foreign oversight, must have yearned for personal and communal deliverance more than most. So when his son was born, with a sacred directive, the restoration of his voice meant only one reaction would do: an explosion into song!

The text says that Zechariah was “filled with the Holy Spirit” as he vocalized this prophecy, often called the Benedictus, or Zechariah’s song. His holy outburst applied the priest’s deep knowledge of the prophetic scriptures—with that long communal wait--to his personal, present joy. Every ounce of his being, from intellect to physical, emotional pouring forth, proclaimed God’s “mercy shown to our ancestors” bringing rescue that would let them “serve [God] without fear.” What absolute fulfillment.

As a singer, I relate to Zechariah’s desire to transform every iota of being into singing—it’s a tremendous feeling! But being wholly honest, I don’t always bring that fullness of being to my thanks or praise. I become impatient, and sometimes my “thanks” is more begrudging than boundless. What an example to aspire to—spirit-inspired, all-encompassing praise!

Dear God, thank you for the ways in which you fulfill promises to each one of us, even when the wait seems long. Help me remember to praise you as fully as you’ve enabled me, and to let your Spirit direct every “song” I sing. Amen.

Written by Sarah van der Ploeg, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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