Daily Devotion for December 22, 2014
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Silent Night was written by a desperate German priest, when his village was snowed in, his organ broken, and his church had no music for Christmas. This is a good approximation of how it sounded when first sung in 1818, done here by the boys choir of St. Thomas in Leipzig, Germany.
Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this life, in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; So that, at the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal.
For our restful sleep at night,
for the rain and sunshine bright,
For the love that Thou dost send,
For our homes and for each friend,
For the day and all its pleasures,
Grateful thanks I render now.
May our lives pass on the blessings,
None can give to us, but Thou.
[The pleasures that God has given us to enjoy.]
May the Passion of Christ be ever in my heart. May your law and your goodness guide my every thought, O Lord. And may the power of your Holy Spirit flow through my words and my actions today, and always.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.
~ G.K. Chesterton
And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
For he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us;
To show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us.
That we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
For you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God;
Whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
Notes on the Scripture
Zechariah's spontaneous hymn of praise is often called the Benedictus (Latin for “blessed”, the first word of the hymn), but is also simply called “The Canticle (or Song) of Zechariah”. The first half is a general song of thanks to God, for the time of the Messiah is finally at hand for Israel. It seems to have a flavor of the Old Testament, for it recalls the time when Israel was independent and powerful under David (and Solomon), and the theme is deliverance of Israel from her enemies. So Zechariah announces that God's promise to Israel is on the verge of fulfillment, after almost 2000 years.
Hebrew altar with four horns
The imagery of the “horn”, used here and throughout the Bible, does not translate well into modern times, but it resonated greatly at the time. The problem is primarily one of technology; 2000 years ago, a horn was a natural symbol of power, because the world was full of oxen and their horns were immensely powerful. Additionally, lacking modern communications, the horn of a ram was used both in battle and in worship as a signaling device. Jewish altars had four horns at their corners, and often one of these horns might be grasped by a person seeking sanctuary.
A modern-day equivalent to “horn of salvation” just doesn't exist; a sword of salvation or a tower or rock of salvation, might be more understandable, but they simply are not accurate.
Zechariah then changes voices and speaks directly to his miraculous son, a key player in the road to Redemption. And here the tone changes to distinctly New Testament, for the key themes are forgiveness of sin, peace, and light versus shadow. The Bible is in a period of transition, reflected in Zechariah, who is really preaching Christ before His birth. We also hear an echo of Isaiah 40:
Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her,
That her warfare is ended, That her iniquity is pardoned; . . .
The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord;”