The announcement of Jesus’ arrival heralds the liberation of His people form the oppression of sin.
His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.
I can only imagine the intensity of emotion felt by people celebrating the end of a war. Photos such as this one give us a tiny glimpse in time of what it might have been like, after years of suffering and loss and heartache and fear, not knowing when or how it will end, to stand at a balcony and welcome your liberators into your city. Can you almost hear the noisy shouts of praise and jubilation? The sense of freedom must have been giddying. The promise of a new life ahead must have been hard to believe.
Zechariah’s words in this passage express the joy and celebration at the arrival of Israel’s salvation. God’s people have known years and years of darkness, suffering, oppression, and fear as they have waited for the salvation promised by God so long ago. Now they are hearing that God himself has come, has redeemed, has announced and brought liberation and salvation itself to his people. The Holy Spirit reveals to Zechariah, and to us, that this liberation brings a profound freedom – the freedom to live God’s way and serve him. The worldly enemies of Israel brought oppression and hatred that prevented them being able to praise, proclaim, serve, worship their beloved God. Now, through Zechariah, we hear that John is here to noisily announce the arrival of the ultimate saviour, Jesus.
Do you notice the past tense of these phrases? It is done – a sure thing, a certainty, completed. Salvation is here. Freedom is here. A new beginning, a new life without fear, serving God and enjoying relationship with him, is here. Can you hear the excitement in Zechariah’s voice? Can you hear God’s people shouting for joy as they welcome the arrival of their liberator, Jesus?
Head: What stops you from serving God without fear? What stops you living your life the way God would have you live? How has Jesus brought you freedom from these things? What does it mean to live in a post-liberation phase of our world’s spiritual history?
Heart: How did you feel when you first realised what it meant that Jesus has rescued you from the oppression, fear and condemnation that sin brings? Take a moment to remember this joy, and ask the Holy Spirit to renew it within your heart today.
Hands: How might your freedom from sin through the liberation that Jesus brings change what you do and how you do it today?
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father please, by the work of your Spirit, renew again within me that joy that I first knew when I realised the freedom from the oppression of shame that your salvation and forgiveness through Jesus has brought me. Please let it overwhelm and invade my heart and mind in such a way that my life reflects your grace and brings honour to you. Amen
A song to listen to: The Love of the Father