Today: Monday, December 09, 2019

Best bits of the Bible - #1    (10/25/2009)

Read the passage

Some descriptions, like in a good song or a poem, conjure up an image as good as a photograph or even a painting… and sometimes the images in our heads can be even stronger than the words which evoked them.

The Bible is full of such imagery: the passage known as the Benedictus, or the song of Zechariah, has some particularly evocative lines: “... to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death...”

We can live in darkness in so many ways—sometimes literally, sometimes metaphorically. The first flat I could call my own was part of a beautiful Victorian house. I didn't own it, but it was my own space. I loved it, but of course—on the low rent I paid—I had the semi-basement… damp and dark. So dark in the winter.

Far more painful, though, is the darkness which comes from sadness, loneliness, illness or depression. It's a darkness which separates us from others, so that we don't hear the friendship in the voice of another, but only our inadequacies: “No one wants to speak to me…” “No one wants to listen to me or be with me…”.

In this passage, Zechariah is telling his listeners that God hasn't forgotten his people. He recounts their history, in which God figures so strongly. He reminds them how God has saved them several times, often undeservedly, just so they could be his people and worship him safely.

Now God is sending John, Zechariah's son (who will be known as John the Baptist), to be the forerunner of God's own son, who will bring so much joy to the world. Why? Because he's the one who will be like the rising sun at the end of a dark night.

I remember once being tired, cold and hungry, having spent the night climbing to the top of a mountain. The sight of the sun rising slowly and majestically, charging the sky with amazingly vivid colours, has stayed with me for over 40 years. As the sky lightened, the air warmed and we could easily see the way to go. Suddenly there was a world beyond us; our lives were back in perspective, and we were part of a group—not alone now; no longer feeling like the only ones on the mountain. The sight of the sun lightened our darkness and brought us fresh hope to carry on.

In his song, Zechariah speaks of “the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven, to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace."

We all have darkness in us—past hurts, or a desire to hurt… fears, inadequacies, vulnerabilities, bitterness, anger and more… But whatever we've been through, and whatever we're facing, God's light has the power to sear away darkness and bring purity and peace. As the song says, this is a God who rescues and saves—and that applies to each of us as individuals, not just Zechariah's original audience.

All we need to do is turn to Jesus. As Christ says at the very end of the Bible, in Revelation: “I am the bright morning star.”

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