Centuries after the time of Jeremiah, the people still await the shepherd king God had promised. They have returned from exile to their homeland but still feel displaced, for God has not spoken to them through the prophets for many years, and the promised Messiah has not arrived. The people still remember the ancient prophecy, but its memory raises poignant and painful questions: Will the Messiah, the one who will save us, ever show up, or has God forgotten God’s promises to us?
At the opening of Luke, Zechariah bursts into song, answering those long-held questions with a resounding word of hope: God has remembered, and the Messiah is on his way! The “mighty savior” is about to arrive, and Zechariah’s newborn son will prepare the way for him. God remains faithful to God’s promises after all and will deliver the people. Zechariah likens this deliverance to the sun’s rising after a night so long and dark that he has wondered if it would ever rise again.
Perhaps an area in our lives feels like a place where we “sit in darkness . . . in the shadow of death”—an unanswered prayer, an estranged relationship, or a persistent feeling of restlessness. We long to leave this sense of exile behind and see God’s promises come true. Yet, as time goes by and nothing changes, we wonder if God has forgotten us. In times like these, Zechariah’s song invites us to recall the times when we too have burst into a song of thankfulness because of God’s saving help. May we trust that the same God who inspired Zechariah’s song will give us reason to sing once again.
Lord, when I feel like I’m in exile, help me to believe in your tender mercies toward me. When I feel like I am sitting in darkness, guide me into the way of peace. Amen.
Each of the passages for this week addresses the ends served by divine power. Jeremiah characterizes king- ship by wisdom, justice, and safety. The exercise of kingly power is on behalf of God’s people rather than against them. The read- ing from Colossians praises the cosmic dimensions of Christ whose exaltation is not an end in itself, for the task of Christ is one of reconciliation. The goal of Christ’s kingship moves to center stage in the passage from Luke. The bystanders and one of the criminals executed with Jesus know what it means to be a king, so they taunt Jesus with the demand that he use his power to save himself. For Jesus, however, a king is not one who saves himself but one who saves others.
• Read Jeremiah 23:1-6. What experiences do you recall of leaders in various arenas not being wise shepherds of the people and the people’s resources?
• Read Luke 1:68-79. The song of Zechariah is this-worldly and political. In what ways does the song encourage you to view the baby in the manger in a different light?
• Read Colossians 1:11-20. How has Jesus revealed himself as your king this past year?
• Read Luke 23:33-43. Jesus came as a different king, a dif- ferent kind of messiah than people expected. Recall a time when God’s response in a situation differed
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