I love holding babies. I have held many babies. Countless times I have held a baby in my arms, and looked down and wondered, “What will this child be?” I can think of no act in life that is more full of hope then holding a baby. I held each of my daughters within minutes of their birth. Each time I was filled with awe and wonder. Each time was a holy moment beyond explanation.
This year at Advent I have rediscovered Zachariah. I’ve been a Dad for a few years, but for some reason I’ve always been drawn to Mary’s song. I wrote last year at Advent about preparing for the coming of a child. This Advent though, I have been drawn to Zechariah’s prophecy when his son was born.
Zechariah praised God when his son was born. He praised God for the promises that God made. He praised God for the promises that God kept. He praised God for the promise that was in his son. For he knew that his son was created for a purpose. He knew that his son would be called a prophet. He knew that his son would “go before the Lord to prepare a way.” He knew that is son would “tell the people how to be saved through the forgiveness of their sins.” Zechariah was filled with joy at the birth of his son, so he praised God.
But I’m here to tell you that God rejoices no less for you than did Zechariah for his son. John so loved his son that he could glimpse him through God’s eternal eyes. God so loves you that he has laid out a path for you to follow. God has given you something that makes you uniquely you. There is something in you that transcends employment, labels, gender, race, or status. God has created you with a purpose, and is calling you to that purpose today. You were created to do no less than John once did – to prepare the way of the Lord, and “to show the people the way to salvation through the forgiveness of sins.”
God has called you to your life. Let it speak. Let nothing get in the way of being the person that you are. Zachariah claimed in his prophecy that through the birth of Jesus, “we have been rescued from the power of our enemies so that we could serve him without fear.” We need no longer fear. We need no longer hide from God or from each other. We are free to use the gifts that God has granted us for God’s purposes. We can serve God in our homes, in our churches, and in our workplace. We can serve God with our hearts, hands, feet, and minds. We are free to love God, because it is only in freedom that love is possible. We are free to love ourselves because we know that we were created in the image of the God that is love. We are free to love one another because God has called us to do no less.
Fear is powerful. Fear can be overwhelming. When we sit in the shadow of death, fear can be crippling.
Many of us have experienced that kind of fear. We have experienced that kind of sorrow or loss. When the chaos of the world is too much to bear, we sit in the shadow. When the diagnosis is positive, and the prognosis is not optimistic, we sit in the shadow. When the job is lost and the source of the next check is a mystery, we sit in the shadow. When we fail to love as we were called to love, we sit in the shadow. When thousands of children die from undernourishment or preventable disease, we sit in the shadow. When a man breaks through the sanctuary of a school and shatters the lives of innocents, we sit in the shadow.
Though some would claim that God does not go where God is not wanted, such a claim stands in direct opposition to the claim of Christmas. The claim of Christmas is that God goes where God is not expected and is not wanted. God goes where it one time seemed impossible. God breaks through the cosmos, tears through the curtain, crumbles our dividing walls, and makes the audacious and spectacular claim that God was made flesh. God was a baby.
The claim of Christmas is that God broke through the darkness. As Zachariah said, ”Because of God’s compassion, the dawn from heaven will break upon us, to give light to those who are sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide us on the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79 CEB)
Through our freedom, humanity has created many dark and terrible places. The shadow of death at times looms large over our world, but in the midst of darkness a baby is born.
Zachariah saw a great purpose in his son’s life. People wondered, “What then will this child be?” John grew to be the voice in the wilderness that cried out, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”
What then will you be? For what purpose have you been created? Use what you have been given to do as John did. Prepare the way of the Lord. Show people the way of salvation. Find those that sit in the shadow of death, and sit next to them. Hold their hand. Weep with them. Give them love. Show them the light, and declare that the dawn is coming. Declare that the dawn is coming, and let the Holy Spirit guide us on the path of peace.
Let Your Life Speak is one of my favorite books. It was written by Parker Palmer.