Young Jesus

Young Jesus

Rev. Dr. Glenda Hollingshead; December 26, 2021

1st Sunday of Christmas

Psalm 148; Luke 2:41-52

 

For the past few weeks, we have journeyed through Advent to reach the Season of Christmas. But for most of us, for all intents and purposes, it feels like Christmas has come and gone. Carols have been sung; bounteous food has been consumed; visitors have packed their donkeys and headed home, trailing ribbons, and wrapping paper behind them; and now we are left to consider settling in for a long winter’s nap. But first, on this Sunday after Christmas, we have gathered to worship, gathered to remember the greatest gift of Christmas—a baby born in Bethlehem.

 

But it is not Baby Jesus who catches our attention this morning. It is Jesus, the child. Thinking of Jesus at this stage of his life reminds me of one of the best Christmas gifts I ever got from my children. It was several years ago. Samuel had graduated from high school and our youngest, Shane, was in kindergarten. It was Samuel’s clever idea, but he needed help. So, he called his favorite high school teacher who just so happened to also be a photography. Then our eldest rounded up his siblings and drove to her house for a photo shoot. It was a wonderful idea, of course, but Samuel had one last challenge to overcome. He had to convince his three younger siblings to keep it all a secret. Actually, I count it a Christmas miracle that no one whispered a word to me beforehand. So, when I opened the big box filled with framed pictures of my children, well, you know what happened, I cried like a baby. Still today, those pictures are among my most treasured possessions. They are snapshots that have frozen in time something special my children once worked together to achieve on their mother’s behalf.

 

Today, our Scripture reading offers us a snapshot of sorts, providing a glimpse of young Jesus at the age of twelve. Luke is the only gospel writer who tells this story. In fact, he’s the only one to include anything about Jesus’ childhood. But it isn’t much, is it? I mean, don’t you wish we had more stories? Maybe an album? Or, at the very least, a box of framed pictures to fill in the blanks? If this is how you feel, you are in good company for there are many who have come before us who have suffered from the same desire. As a result, there are some ancient writings, apocryphal in nature, that didn’t make it into the Bible that tell stories of amazing events from Jesus’ boyhood: bringing a dead bird back to life or punishing bad neighbors with miraculous feats. Some Bible-related movies have imagined things like Jesus working in the carpenter shop with Joseph or sitting on Mary’s lap listening to stories.

 

Luke’s story is quite ordinary—nothing magical or miraculous about it—but then there’s not much magical or miraculous about being twelve years old, is there? Twelve is an in-between time—not yet fully grown but no longer a little kid. In some countries, though, twelve-year-olds are working full-time, earning pennies a day for their families. A little closer to home, do you know someone who’s twelve? Think about it for a moment. Do you see the boy with air pods in his ears? What is he thinking about as he moves to the rhythm of the music? What about the girl who feels pressured by social media to look a certain way? How are those photoshopped images affecting her?

 

In many ways, Jesus lived in simpler times. When he was twelve, he and his parents went to Jerusalem just like they did every year for the festival of Passover. Like lines on the door frame marking a child’s growth, Luke marks Jesus’ life by scenes in the temple. Earlier in this chapter Jesus was dedicated in the temple. It was then that aged Simeon held Jesus in his arms and said, “Lord, now let your servant go in peace…for my own eyes have seen your salvation.” It was then that the prophet, Anna, an 84-year-old widow who never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer both day and night, began to praise God at the very sight of the Christ Child. Between that day and age twelve we know nothing except this: Jesus lived with his parents and their lives were marked by the rhythms and rituals of Jewish life, so it is natural-even ordinary-that the next scene brings us again to the temple.

 

In the rhythm of Jewish life, age twelve would be about the time of the rite of bar mitzvah, meaning “son of the law.” No longer will others speak for Jesus—not angels—not Simeon—not Anna. Now Jesus will speak for himself—and so he does. There in the temple he listens and asks questions, but he also speaks and gives answers—answers that amaze his teachers. While his understanding may be impressive, his decision to stay in the temple for so long causes his parents days of panic. And when they do finally find him, Jesus is hardly the picture of consideration: “Why were you searching for me?” If you’re a parent, you’ve heard something like that. “Why were you worried? I knew where I was.”

 

Jesus’ motive for remaining behind in the temple is unclear. Maybe he loses track of time, like any boy caught up in something he loves. Maybe he has had enough of childish things and wishes to mark his maturation with an exclamation point. Maybe he does not think he is lost. Regardless of his motive, we see Jesus at the beginning of his budding adulthood, in a sort of self-devised confirmation class, exchanging questions with teachers in the temple, and absorbing what he needs most for the days ahead.

 

Since the pandemic began, our young folks have not been able to regularly worship with us in person. We miss them. No doubt. But just because they are not here in our midst, that doesn’t mean we have nothing to offer them. Far from it! We have the love of Jesus; we have the stories of our faith; we have our experiences. “But how can we do that if they are not here?” you may ask. First, you can make a commitment to pray for our young folks every day. And then—do what we are all doing to stay connected to our loved ones amidst a global pandemic—get creative! Send a note to Madison, Jaxon, Zachary, Elise, or Evan and let them know you are thinking about them. Go old school and give their parent’s a call (or new school and text) to ask how they are doing.

As believers in this faith community, we are part of the extended family of God. Jesus’ parents fail to miss him for so long because they are not traveling as a nuclear family. They are traveling with a caravan of extended family and friends. When they return to the temple, they find Jesus happily relating to an even-further-extended circle made up of those who teach Torah in his Father’s house. Later in Luke’s gospel, Jesus will widen the boundaries of his “family” circle beyond the house of Israel, offering the good news of God’s embrace to everyone within the sound of his voice—offering that grace even further still—to eventually include all of us.

Luke offers us a glimpse of Jesus as a twelve-year-old boy. Sure, we would prefer more—maybe an album or, at the very least, a box of framed pictures to fill in the blanks. But we have enough. We have enough to realize that Jesus, fully human yet fully divine, had some growing pains of his own. We have enough to see Jesus as a young man on his way to becoming the person God created him to be, someone whose character, words, and deeds still capture our imagination. We have enough to make us yearn to give ourselves to Jesus—heart, mind, and soul—so that we, too, may one day become all that God created us to be. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

*Cover Art by Ella Hawkins, used by permission

Leap for Joy

Leap for Joy

Rev. Dr. Glenda Hollingshead; December 19, 2021

4th Sunday of Advent

Luke 1:39-55

 

Our reading from Luke’s gospel is a familiar and beloved text that describes Mary’s visit with her relative, Elizabeth. Immediately, we see the Holy Spirit at work, for we are told that when Elizabeth hears Mary’s greeting, her unborn child leaps in her womb and, filled with the Spirit, she pronounces a blessing: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb…as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy…” With these words, Elizabeth becomes the first human witness to the good news the angel brought to Mary.

 

Recently, I heard someone say that in a few months, we will begin our 3rd year living with a global pandemic. Hearing those words broadcast aloud made my heart sank. There is so much pain in the world. Many of our friends and family members are struggling through difficult times. Some in our own church family are suffering, too.  When we feel like the darkness will swallow us whole, where can we turn for light? Hope? Joy? Perhaps, Luke has just what the doctor ordered—a pre-Christmas gift of the story of two women pregnant with significance, pregnant with the messenger and the message; the story of two women who encourage each other and find the light, hope, and joy they desperately need.[i]

 

As I pondered our reading for today, one phrase jumped out at me: “leap for joy.” The unborn child, John, leaps when the unborn, Jesus, approaches. Elizabeth recognizes something miraculous is happening so she blesses Mary who will, in time, bless us all. Joy and the promise of joy for generations to come is worth leaping for, isn’t it? But I ask you: when was the last time you leapt for joy? Can you remember? I don’t recall seeing anyone leaping for joy as you entered the church this morning. And me? Well, I happen to know what the sermon is about, and I didn’t leap up here, either. Well, Presbyterians aren’t known for leaping, we might say. Not decent! Hardly in order! But I think the Spirit is begging to shake things up, to startle us to attention, to remind us who we are and whose we are. We are siblings of the Christ-Child. We are indwelled by God’s Spirit, and though the darkness is real, it cannot destroy the light of Christ.

 

If we need a precedent for leaping for joy, there’s plenty of Scripture references to spur us on. In 2 Samuel, for example, when the ark of the Lord enters the city, King David leaps and dances before the Lord.[ii] In Isaiah, we are told that when the salvation of the Lord comes, the lame will leap like a deer and the mute will shout with joy. [iii] Jesus proclaims in the Gospel of Luke, “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven.”[iv] And in Acts, when Peter heals a lame man at the entrance of the temple, with a leap he stands upright, and enters the temple, walking, leaping, and praising God.[v]

 

Mary Oliver provides an interesting perspective on leaping for joy in her poem, “The Storm.”

 

Now through the white orchard my little dog

                        romps, breaking the new snow

                        with wild feet.

            Running here running there, excited,     

                        hardly able to stop, he leaps, he spins

            until the white snow is written upon

                        in large, exuberant letters,

            a long sentence, expressing

                        the pleasures of the body in this world.

            Oh, I could not have said it better

                        myself.

 

In response to the coming birth of the Christ-child and the new kin-dom he will usher in, Elizabeth and Mary offer blessing and praise. Surely, a leap for joy is in order for us as well because we know the rest of the story. We know what this child will accomplish and is still accomplishing. We know that just as Elizabeth and Mary find community and encouragement in each other’s presence, we have that too—here in person and through the miraculous medium of digital streaming.

 

When we look out at the world, we recognize that we live in the in-between times. Christ has come for the salvation of the world, but the world is not yet as Christ longs for it to be. There are still dark days. And still, the reality for too many people around the globe includes the lack of food, water, clothing, shelter, medical care, and community. As God’s children who long to ease the suffering of others, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. We may be tempted to give up. But now is not the time to give up. Now is the time to lift our voices in song and praise and to leap, yes, leap for joy every chance we get.

 

Rev. Cathlynn Law reminds us of the very real tension that is present in choosing to rejoice while still acknowledging the broken world in which we live. She writes,

 

It’s easy to become cynical and lose heart. It’s at that point that we especially need to remember Mary’s song and know that God is greater than the violence that is so evident in the world. In all the chaos and confusion, in the midst of pain and suffering in the world; in all the uncertain, fragile times in our lives; the song IS louder and stronger. God comes to us in Jesus and shines the light of love upon us. Even in those dark times when we are hurting and hopeless and angry and afraid, when nothing makes sense, the song is still louder, and it is waiting to be sung. We must keep singing. The confusion and chaos easily consume us. The uncertainty and anxiety, grief and pain can threaten to break our spirit and steal our joy. But the song within us, the song of hope and faith and confidence in God, the song of God’s love forever coming to life within and around us—that song is still stronger—and that is why we must keep singing it. [vi]

 

As we near the end of our Advent journey and gather to celebrate the birth of Jesus, let us be seekers of joy. Let us recognize our blessings and share them with others. Let us greet loved ones and strangers with love in our heart and joy in our step. And let us keep company with those who embrace the Mystery and long to sing and, yes, even leap for joy.

 

 

 

 

[i] Stephen A. Cooper, Feasting on the Word.

[ii] 2 Samuel 6:16

[iii] Isaiah 35:6

[iv] Luke 6:22-23

[v] Acts 3:8

[vi] Rev. Cathlynn Law @ http://ucup.org/multimedia-archive/leaping-for-joy-advent-ii/

*Cover Art by Ella Hawkins, used by permission

Preacher John

Preacher John

Rev. Dr. Glenda Hollingshead; December 12, 2021

Third Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 12:2-6; Luke 3:7-18

 

We might describe Preacher John as clear, focused, and painfully honest. We certainly would not describe him as a preacher of the cotton candy gospel. Although I have often heard how important it is for pastors to love the people whom God calls us to serve, at first glance, it appears John neither loves nor likes his audience. It’s worth noting that Luke clumps the “crowd” together as one entity, referring to the whole lot as a brood of vipers, while the writer of the Gospel of Matthew has John referring specifically to many of the Pharisees and Sadducees whom John sees coming for baptism. So, even though John directs his venom to some in the crowd, it’s not necessarily all of them. Still, this is strong language. But when John looks out at the people, he sees them for what they are—instead of who they are pretending to be. So, Preacher John offers a reality check: “You think you’re something because of your pedigree…because you can trace your bloodline back to Abraham. God can make children of Abraham out of these stones.”

 

“Even now,” John says, “the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” In the original Greek, the word for “bear fruit” comes from the root word “poieo,” and it means “to make, be the authors or cause of, to prepare, make ready, to produce, to do…” John looks at the crowd and says they must bear fruit. Their bloodline doesn’t matter. Wealth and possessions are of no regard. Every one of God’s children must bear fruit. Period.

 

The crowds ask, “What then should we do?” Interestingly, the word here for “do” is the same word John uses for bear: “poieo.” As a result, the question might be understood as “What then should we bear? What fruit are we responsible for producing?”  The tax collectors ask John the same question. “Then what should we do?” Finally, soldiers come forward, “Then what should we do?” Three times John is asked to clarify “What should we do?” and, in the words of one commentator,

 

The preacher from the desert addresse[s] the crowd, tax collectors, and soldiers, with an uncompromising demand for fairness and justice. Generosity and unselfishness [are] the proper ‘fruit’ of repentance. This is nothing less than a mental and spiritual U-turn, true metanoia [repentance]. For the Baptist, repentance [has] less to do with how fervently one prays or faithfully attends the worship service; instead, it [has] everything to do with how one handle[s] riches, execute[s] public service, and exercise[s] stewardship.[i]

 

But, truth be told, don’t you imagine those who pose the question already know the answer? After all, the people of Israel grow up with a steady diet of Hebrew Scripture. From the birth of God’s chosen people until the very day John stands by the River Jordan baptizing, words of prophets like Micah resound in their ears: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

 

Most of us, most of the time, we know what to do, don’t we? We know as believers in Jesus, we should be defined by generosity, fairness, and justice. We know what to do, still, too many times, we fail; we may even give up hope. But John the Baptist proclaims a new message of hope—a new way of living made possible through Jesus.

 

When John the Baptist appears on the scene, Israel has been waiting 400 years for a word from God. We don’t know much about John, except that God’s hand is upon him before he is born, and John is called to an important task—one to which he devotes his entire life. The people are used to a different kind of teacher, though, someone sitting safe and sound in the synagogue or temple, someone wearing long-flowing robes and boasting of their own righteousness. But here comes John, wearing his camel skin and eating his insects and wild honey. Yum…yum… John gives up a comfortable home and a comfortable life because he is filled with a message that needs to be shouted from the mountain tops and proclaimed by the water’s edge. All that John does and says points others to Jesus. It might be said that John serves as a hinge of our faith history—closing the door of one way of thinking—and cracking the door open to a new way empowered by the Holy Spirit—a way made possible through Christ.

 

John the Baptist does not come to claim some high and mighty position. No. Filled with the Spirit of God, John comes to serve. He comes to “bear fruit” of the eternal kind. In the new kingdom breaking forth, pedigree matters not one bit. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor. It doesn’t matter who your mother and father are. It doesn’t matter how young or how old you are. What matters is how you live your life—how you behave. Sure, it’s great to believe—but the question is—how does your believing affect your behaving?

 

While studying this text, I found Eugene Peterson’s translation from The Message to offer a fresh perspective. I invite you to hear it now:

 

When crowds of people came out for baptism because it was the popular thing to do, John exploded: “Brood of snakes! What do you think you’re doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to deflect God’s judgment? It’s your life that must change, not your skin. And don’t think you can pull rank by claiming Abraham as ‘father.’ Being a child of Abraham is neither here nor there—children of Abraham are a dime a dozen. God can make children from stones if he wants. What counts is your life. Is it green and blossoming? Because if it’s deadwood, it goes on the fire.”

The crowd asked him, “Then what are we supposed to do?”

“If you have two coats, give one away,” he said. “Do the same with your food.”

Tax men also came to be baptized and said, “Teacher, what should we do?”

He told them, “No more extortion—collect only what is required by law.”

Soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

He told them, “No shakedowns, no blackmail—and be content with your rations.”

The interest of the people by now was building. They were all beginning to wonder, “Could this John be the Messiah?”

But John intervened: “I’m baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.” There was a lot more of this—words that gave strength to the people, words that put heart in them. The Message!

Can anyone tell, by observing our lives, that we bear the mark of Christ? Are we governed by honesty and concern for others? In our heart of hearts, though we know what to do, we cannot do it on our own. We must be changed from the inside out—something that begins at the waters of our baptism and continues until we draw our last breath.

 

There is a story of a pastor who makes a habit of addressing an infant after he has baptized her: “Little child, you belong to God; you always have and you always will, and now the mark of Christ is upon you.” The church of Jesus Christ believes that the baptismal waters cleanse, renew, and change us forever.[ii] Furthermore, we believe we are sent from the font out into the world to serve—to do justice—to love kindness—and to walk humbly with our God. Yes, we know what to do!

[i] Feasting on the Word, Veli-Matti Karkkainen, 68.

[ii] Feasting on the Word, Kathy Beach-Verhey, 73.

*Cover Art by Ella Hawkins, used by permission

Out of the Silence

Out of the Silence

Rev. Dr. Glenda Hollingshead; December 5, 2021

Second Sunday of Advent

Malachi 3:1-4; Luke 1:67-79

 

I still remember our middle son’s first Christmas living on his own—mostly because of the flurry of text messages I got from him one evening. Seth is our quiet son—a true introvert who can go for days working on a project all by himself—perfectly happy. Because Seth is so quiet by nature, when he was growing up, I quickly learned to pay attention when he was in the mood to talk. Sometimes that meant starting a conversation at 11 o’clock at night and practicing my listening skills with my eyes half open. But no matter. When Seth started talking, as a mother I felt compelled to listen—and to listen carefully.

 

Zechariah is in the talking business, we might say. A priest in the days of King Herod, his vocation is to talk about Yahweh. Maybe he has even gotten into the habit of talking TO Yahweh more than he listens. We just don’t know. But we do know that when they were young, Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, prayed for a child. They prayed and they prayed. But when old age came to visit, understandably, they gave up on that prayer. In God’s time Zechariah is chosen to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to offer incense. There he is—about the business of Yahweh—when the angel Gabriel shows up and scares him out of his wits. The angel tries to relieve his fears with that—oh so familiar angel phrase: “Do not be afraid.” Then Gabriel delivers God’s message: “Your prayer has been heard. Your wife will bear a son and you will name him John.”

 

Zechariah is dumbfounded and asks, “How will I know that this is so?  I’m an old man and my wife is getting on in years.” In other words, “Are you kidding me?” While Zechariah’s question seems reasonable to us, for some reason the angel is not in the mood to be questioned—at least not by a priest of Yahweh—a man who is supposed to be in the business of believing the unbelievable. So, Gabriel hands down a shocking sentence to Zechariah: “Because you did not believe my words, you will be unable to speak until the day these things occur.”

 

Zechariah, a priest in the talking business, will talk no more—not for a while—not for 9 months or so. In essence, Zechariah is sentenced to a time in the wilderness—alone in silence. The text actually indicates that not only can Zechariah not talk during his wilderness time—he can’t hear either. Why else would the people have to motion to him concerning his son’s name?

 

I daresay most of us have little exposure to time in the desert or the wilderness. Throughout Scripture, however, wilderness time is good time. It is listening time. It is learning time. Moses comes upon the burning bush and, thereby, God, in the wilderness. It is in the wilderness that Elijah learns a very important lesson: God is not found in noise and chaos. God is found in a still, small voice. Zechariah’s own son, John, will dwell in the wilderness and it is from the wilderness that he returns to hand on to others what he has learned there: Repent, the kingdom of God is at hand! Jesus, too, spends 40 days in the wilderness. There he is affirmed in his mission to stand against Satan wherever Satan may be found.

 

Zechariah enters his wilderness time and from that quiet place, he sees the hand of God working in wondrous ways. Elizabeth does in fact become pregnant. During her pregnancy, Mary comes to pay a visit. Sitting in silence, dwelling upon how, through God, all things are possible, I wonder what Zechariah thinks of Mary’s story: “An angel of the Lord came to visit me. He said I had been chosen and that the Spirit of God would come upon me—and it was so.” How can Zechariah doubt the angel’s visitation on Mary when he, himself, has just had such an encounter?

 

Evidence of God’s mighty hand is ever present as with each passing day the baby in Elizabeth’s womb grows. Finally, the words of Gabriel come to pass, and Elizabeth gives birth to a son. At the “Naming Ceremony,” there are those present who assume the baby will have a family name, but Elizabeth is adamant. Unconvinced, they turn to the mute Zechariah who asks for a tablet—on which he writes, “His name is John.”  And with the scribbling of a few words on a tablet, Zechariah ends his wilderness time, his desert time, his silence. His mouth is opened, his tongue is freed, and filled with the Holy Spirit, the old priest praises God.

Zechariah offers a word of praise and prophecy. He praises the Covenant God of Israel, recalling God’s redeeming acts in the past. Then he speaks of the future—of the Redeemer who will bring freedom and holiness and righteousness. He speaks of salvation and a light breaking forth from the shadow of death. A new era has come. Zechariah weaves together the promises of old and the promises about to be fulfilled. He believes—oh, now he believes. His mind—once filled with doubt—no longer underestimates the love and power of God. His boy, John, will announce the arrival of the Redeemer. God’s promises are here! There is much to sing about! True joy is silenced by unbelief.  Zechariah knows something about the silence caused by unbelief.  And Zechariah knows something about the joy of faith renewed.

Perhaps you have heard me say my favorite Christmas movie is the classic It’s a Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Steward and Donna Reed. It just so happens that It’s a Wonderful Life was the topic of Seth’s text messages. On the evening of his flurry of text messages, he had just finished decorating his Christmas tree. Among the text messages, Seth sent me pictures of the lights adorning the outside of the house and the lovely Christmas tree in the living room. I responded with what I thought was adequate enthusiasm. But I was missing the real message. “No, Mom,” the text read. “Look at the tree skirt.” Finally, I saw it. Seth’s tree skirt was a woven throw I bought many years ago picturing the town of Bedford Falls. It’s the setting of the movie in which George Bailey has his own wilderness time. Thinking all is lost, he is about to give up but the prayers of people who love him result in a gentle angel, Clarence, coming to earth to offer George the help he desperately needs. With the gift of a vision to see things from a different perspective, George realizes that his life has mattered. His life has been truly wonderful. Because of George’s wilderness time, his faith is restored and renewed.

 

Still today, we are drawn to stories like these because we are people still searching—searching for light amidst shadows and darkness. Some days it feels like the world is addicted to anger and hatred and fear, so much so, we may be tempted to stick our heads in the sand until the storm passes over. But it shows no signs of abating. With so much pain—within us and around us—our hearts are broken asunder. What is ours to do? What is ours to say?  While I certainly don’t have all the answers, I know who does, and so I bang on the doors of heaven—just like you do, I imagine.

 

Could it be that one person who can show us the way forward is none other than Zachariah, who lived through his own wilderness time?  Might his experience light the way for us? Perhaps what Zachariah has to teach us is that there are times when it’s best to speak less and sit in silence more. Maybe, out of the silence we can truly hear the leading of the Spirit. If we are brave enough to enter the wilderness, we might be amazed by the still small voice that leads us into the light.

 

As followers of Jesus, we are called to offer another perspective—something other than faith in all that glitters. At the very least, we can affirm our belief in the enchantment and wonder of Almighty God entering the world as a helpless baby—who came to right the wrongs in the world and to teach us to do the same.

 

For a time, Zechariah sits in silence, but his mute state ends with a clear mind and a loose tongue. Ultimately, he is transformed. His doubt takes a back seat to faith—faith in the God of Israel who made a holy covenant with Abraham—faith in the God of Israel whose plan of salvation includes Zechariah’s only son. John is born with a mighty task—he will prepare the way for the Lord—he will lift up Christ as the light to those who sit in darkness—he will guide their feet into the way of peace. In the end, Zechariah’s song of praise is a joyful, triumphant invitation to people living in darkness: Embrace the light. Be released from the shadow of death. Believe and be silent no more.

 

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

*Cover Art by Ella Hawkins, used by permission