Susquehanna Morning

Susquehanna Morning

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Advent 3 Saturday: Sing Out!

Grace and peace, as God kindles the lamps by which we see the promised salvation.

December 19: O Radix Jesse! O Root of Jesse!
O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.
Our reading this evening is Luke 1:67-80, in the New Revised Standard Version.
67 Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a mighty savior[a] for us
    in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71     that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
72 Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
    and has remembered his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
    to grant us 74 that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness
    before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
    by the forgiveness of their sins.
78 By the tender mercy of our God,
    the dawn from on high will break upon[b] us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
80 The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

Scene from the animated film "The Promise" by Glorious Films.

You can click here for suggestions on doing Lectio Divina, and then return for the meditation and prayer.

At the end of the infancy story of John the Baptist comes the ecstatic prayer of his father. But it is a song; any time scripture is laid out in poetic format, we are "hearing" a song.

Zechariah endured nine months of his own silence-- inability to speak-- and his first utterance when his tongue is freed again is to sing these praises to God.

I'm struck at how the bulk of this prayer is about what God has already done. Some scripture nerd (a nerdier nerd than me) combed through the first 8 verses of this and found no fewer than 32 allusions and quotations from the Hebrew scriptures. They boil down to one claim, a claim that is arguably at the heart of the belief systems of the three Abrahamic traditions: God is faithful.

God is faithful. So faithful, that Zechariah must burst into song about it.

What makes you burst into song?

I always think of my college pal Steve S., who was known to enter a room singing,

"What a day this has been! What a rare mood I'm in! Why it's-- almost like being in love!"

Which, of course, would tend to suggest that.... he was in love. (Were you, Steve?)

And my entire seminary community raised, spontaneously, songs of communal lament on September 11, 2001.

Songs come forth from us when our emotions overwhelm us and mere words simply won't do the work of expressing what we feel. 

We tend to burst into songs at times when our hearts are filled with overwhelming emotion.

Zechariah is overwhelmed because: God is faithful.

God is faithful.

What makes you burst into song?

"Come Love Away" by the Bright Wings Chorus


Faithful God, hold us in that space between what you have promised and the world as we see it. Hold in our vision your place of delight and peace. We pray in the name of the root of Jesse: your child Jesus. Amen.

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