Tuesday of the Fourth Week in Advent (Christmas Eve)
(II Samuel &:1-5.8b-12.14a.16; Luke 1:67-79)
Today’s gospel is commonly called the Benedictus among Church professionals. The name comes from the Latin form of it first word, “Blessed.” In reading the Benedictus one should have a sense of anachronism; that is, the words are out of synch with the occasion. Zechariah, the speaker of the Benedictus, is expressing joy over the birth his first-born son, John. Yet he is claiming that God has visited his people and delivered them from their enemies.
God will come to deliver the people with Jesus. He, and not John the Baptist, is the proper subject of the Benedictus, which is a prayer meant to be sung. Very probably, Jewish Christians sung this prayer after Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead. They believed Jesus to be the Son of God who saved their people from their greatest enemies – not Rome but sin and death. There is a sentence in the Benedictus that does refer to John. Zechariah is speaking directly to him when he says, “’…you will go before the Lord to prepare his way…’” Indeed, John preached the coming of the Messiah many years later.
The evangelist Luke pictures Zechariah looking at his newborn son John and uttering these words of praise to God. We should see Jesus in the manger, if not now then tomorrow, and likewise praise God for sending him to us. Jesus has come as the prayer reads. Like “the dawn” he has delivered us from the darkness of sin. Like a “way of peace” he has reconciled us to God and one another.