Luke 1:67-80

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.

Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands 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 by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel. Luke 1:67-80

The first thing I do every morning when I first sit at my computer is check my email. Included this morning among them was a message from a conservative group that I have never heard of warning me that President-Elect Biden has a plan to destroy my retirement plan. Whoda thunk it? First thing in the morning and I’m facing elderly poverty. (The email was a bogus fundraising campaign preying on peoples’ tribalism, ignorance, and fear. DELETE and MOVE ON.)

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we wish our leaders ill before they even have a chance to lead? Aren’t we able to connect the dots to see that, if our leaders fail, we all fail? Are we, or are we not, connected to one another?

Now that Zechariah can talk again, he does. His prophecy is very familiar – thanking God for defeating their enemies, remembering that God’s oath to Abraham was to bless Israel while expecting Israel’s continued service. Then he moves to his son, called to prepare the way of the Lord, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins.

This all sounds good…until you consider the words, not from Zechariah looking forward but from Jesus looking backward. Then it starts to get a little fishy.

The original promise to Abraham wasn’t simply to “bless” the people of Israel, it was to bless them so that, through them, all the people in the world would be blessed. All the people in the world, by definition, includes those we would consider “enemies.”

One day Jesus will clear that one up. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

As for the “forgiveness of our sins”, Jesus said something about that as well. Pray then this way, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”

Zechariah got it right – By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” – But the way of peace that Jesus would bring would not look at all like Zechariah expected. That peace comes to us only as it flows through us.

Jesus wouldn’t bless tribalism, he would break down the walls of division. He wouldn’t seek “peace through strength” but “peace through love.” Through inclusive, rather than exclusive, love. And for all that, he would pay a very steep price.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, may we see in our neighbor a person worthy of love and respect. May we recognize ourselves in our enemies. May we never lose hope in the promise of peace and never forget it begins with us. May the tender mercy of your love break into this world and turn us upside down. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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