From the Pastor’s Heart

Watchword for December 2017
Because of the tender mercy of our God by which the rising sun will come to us
from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to put our feet into the path of peace.

Luke 1.78-79

Zachariah sings between dawn and full noon sun
Zachariah sings, a man who was quiet for a long time. Zachariah sings, al- though he has already given up. Zachariah sings, although he has doubts whether he can still count on God. Zachariah sings… By singing he ushers in the light that will shine for all, in whose hearts it has become dark. He sings in anticipation of the glowing presence of God and in the hope, that the darkness of fear and the night of anguish will be broken by this penetrating light. In his whole being Zechariah is waiting and hoping; in song he stretches out to God, anticipating that God will pull him up from the deep and set his feet back on solid ground. He knows that he cannot pull himself out of this deep and save himself. He trusts in God and therefore he prays to Him in song. However large the distress and anguish of his own life - as well as the life of his people - may be, Zachariah sets his hope on God, that God will hear him, and will save him, and the people he loves; that God will come and light up the darkness.
Zachariah does then experience something wonderful. Him and his wife Elizabeth became parents. The thing that they did not expect to happen, did happen. With this child, John, the story of God’s love and faithfulness will continue, not only with Zechariah personally, but with all God’s people. It is not only his personal story, but also the story of his people that Zechariah sings about, the story of his fathers and mothers before him. And that is why these words in Luke 1:78-79 are also about my life. And your life. The story of God’s love and faithfulness continues with every single human life. When my song of praise falls silent, when it becomes dark inside of me, then it is the story of God’s love and faithfulness that will continue, regardless.
That is why unto us a Child is born. It is His way that John will point out and prepare. This Child comes to us so that the Story of God’s love and faithfulness can continue to be told, also in and through your life and my life. And when this Story is heard a new song of praise awakens in our hearts and sounds out from our voices… Yes, it may be that we find it particularly difficult at this festive time. Maybe because it is the first Christmas we will spend without a loved one. Maybe because hope and faith broke into pieces inside us. Maybe because we feel lonely and sad, especially during these festive days.
But, and there’s a big but here… and Zechariah’s song points us to it: God is with us also in the dark and lonely places of our hearts, and God also goes with us along those difficult pathways that we have to travel. And it is especially at this time of Christmas that God wants to remind you and me of this and wants to penetrate our darkness with this Child that was born in the middle of darkest night and amongst people in despair and anguish. We are amongst those people, we are included, your life and mine. Your life and my life are also a part of God’s Story of love and faithfulness. Every day is a day in which God wants to live with us, a day where He wants to shed light on our path that we need to go, a day where He wants to fill our hearts with the warmth of His loving presence.
So, how can we join our voices with this song, even when our world and also our own personal lives seem like there’s nothing to sing about? But then, Advent – and Christmastime without singing is unthinkable. The heart of faith sees more than meets the eye… It sees in small beginnings, like the birth of a little child, the greater picture and goal… and begins to sing about it! When we sing the familiar Advent hymns and Christmas carols, then we sing of the Promise that is already fulfilled, despite the many things in our present that speak against it. The Promise we sing of is that God has come and is with us and will lead us home. Faith is the bird that sings when the night is still dark just before dawn. Birds do that, because they know the promise of the rising sun and the dawn of a new day, even if it is still dark. When we sing we do the same as the birds do. We reach out to the Promise of God given to us through His Word: At Christmas God has come to us. And on each Christmas we celebrate, He comes to us again. Like a beautiful sunrise, the love of God and His tender mercy rose and filled the earth with its glow. This same glow enters into our lives like a small ray of light that steadily increases as the day progresses until it dispels all the darkness. God’s coming into the world left an afterglow of love and light and life, which also left its mark on the lives of each one of us…
So let us join Zechariah in song with the lovely melodies of Advent- and Christmas hymns in our Divine Services and also at home, and especially in our hearts. And we will see and feel what these lovely melodies do with our hearts… Yes, we will see that marvellous Light of God’s love and faithfulness piercing through the dark of our night and fill us with its warmth and glow…
I wish you all a very blessed and Spirit filled Advent – and Christmas Season with rekindled
hope and joy!

Yours in Christ,