Monday, January 31, 2011

Children of the dawn

Lk 1:46-55; 67-79

46And Mary said,

"My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever."

67And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
68 "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
69and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71 that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
78because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
79to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace."


Mary’s hymn is a study in continuity and contrast. A study in continuity: his steadfast love for his people, from one generation to the next. In the keeping of his word. In his remembered promise. In his abiding covenant with the patriarchs, and their posterity.

God is unchanging in purpose because God is unchanging in nature. God is the only constant in a fleeting world. Generations come and go, but God remains the same. What time, space, and death have scattered, he shall regather–on behalf of his elect.

His steadfast love is manifested in mighty deeds as well as weighty words. God’s providence, undergirding God’s promise. A God who says what he will do, and does what he has said. Crowned by the long-awaited birth of the Messiah.

But also a study in contrast: between the humble and the haughty. The lowly and the lofty. The poor in spirit and the self-sufficient. The fate of the faithful and the fate of the faithless. God exalts the lowly and lowers the lofty. God is strong where we are weak. Those who win today will lose tomorrow, while those who lose today will win tomorrow.

For Zechariah, the Messianic age is a second Exodus. A greater Exodus. As God once visited his captive people in the person of his Angel, God now visits his people in the person of his Son. As God long ago brought light to his people by the pillar of fire and the radiant Shekinah, he now brings light to his people by the Shekinah Incarnate, who leads them anew to the promised land (e.g. Josh 24:14).


The heathen were children of the night. Living and dying in darkness. They stumbled on the starlit path of dim, blighted nature.

The Jews were children of a harvest moon. They saw by the lunar light of God’s promise and providence. The silver beams of the silver age of redemption, and the harbinger of a dawning day.

Christian believers here below are children of the dawn. They dwell in light and shade. In the snug, dappled light of the rising sun. Breaking over the frosty hills. Fanning forth into the valleys below. The first flush of a new day. A spring day. An everlasting day. Yet the rising sun casts shadows, long shadows. Advancing day alongside remnants of receding night. Tears and laughter intermixed.

But above and beyond, the saints shall be children of the day. Dwelling in the noontime brightness of the equatorial sun. The undying light of God’s hoped-for, longed-for restoration.


Thank you, Father, that you have made us children of the dawn. That you have graced us to walk in the aurorean light of the Easter morn. Even though our life below is often overshadowed by sin, illness and death; by hardship and heartache; by longing for what we once had, but have no more; or what we long for, but never had; our path is brightened by shafts of heavenly sunshine that thaw the heart, heal the knees, cheer the soul, and light our eyes a way out of lingering shadows into the fullness of the greatness of the goodness of the consummation to come.

By the love of God, the grace of Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Amen.