This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
PHILIPPINES FACE LONG PROCESS OF RECOVERY
J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
67-75 Then Zacharias, his father, filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking like a prophet, said, “Blessings on the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has turned his face towards his people and has set them free! And he has raised up for us a standard of salvation in his servant David’s house! Long, long ago, through the words of his holy prophets, he promised to do this for us, so that we should be safe from our enemies and secure from all who hate us. So does he continue the mercy he showed to our forefathers. So does he remember the holy agreement he made with them and the oath which he swore to our father Abraham, to make us this gift: that we should be saved from the hands of our enemies, and in his presence should serve him unafraid in holiness and righteousness all our lives.
76-79 “And you, little child, will be called the prophet of the most high, for you will go before the Lord to prepare the way for his coming. It will be for you to give his people knowledge of their salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. Because the heart of our God is full of mercy towards us, the first light of Heaven shall come to visit us—to shine on those who lie in darkness and under the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
80 The little child grew up and became strong in spirit. He lived in lonely places until the day came for him to show himself to Israel.
Again today we can enjoy the story-telling artistry of Luke who invents this prophetic song for his character. It’s picks up bits of the Jewish scripture, especially referring to Abraham (rather than Moses), who also had an almost miraculous son, and David, the prototype of the Just King. God is praised for being faithful to his promise of freedom for Israel whose people will be enabled to serve in holiness and righteousness.
The prophecy about John is based on Isaiah chapter 40 (preparing the way of the Lord), and Isaiah 9 ( the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light). The ministry of John is to give the “knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins” which assimilates his message more closely to that of Jesus than appears to have been the case. But his human ministry will be superseded by the “”first light of heaven”, a beautiful phrase which describes Jesus’ divine origin.
In all of this Luke is giving character to God, Jesus,John and Israel, so that he as author doesn’t have to rely on his readers’ knowledge of these, but plants his own knowledge in their minds. The language of the song is dignified, joyful and full of wonder. All this fills out Luke’s portrait of Jesus, just as for example John does in the prologue to his gospel. It is astonishing how little the gospel is dated by 2000 years. The modern reader still responds to this ancient text much as its author intended. Once we set aside barren arguments about the historicity of the story -Luke is not recounting facts but rather the reality of what happened- we can understand how our image of Jesus is enhanced by the story of his birth.