December 24, 2019
by Eileen Burke-Sullivan
Creighton University's Theology Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Tuesday in Fourth of Advent
Lectionary: 200

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16
Psalms 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 and 29
Luke 1:67-79

Today's Advent Prayer

Celebrating Christmas

Christmas Prayers

Elizabeth Remembers

A Parent Reflects on Joseph & Mary

The words at the end of this morning’s Gospel are among the most passionate and tender of all the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.

In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
               To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death
               And to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Witnessed in Luke’s Gospel as the prophetic utterance of John the Baptist’s father, Zachariah, these words pour forth from what had been the prophet’s mute tongue.  His unbelief at the promise of God is transformed into belief and eternal pronouncement by the Holy Spirit, and the words fill our hearts and souls with the Father’s response to our darkened and sinful world.  

To shine on those who dwell in darkness  . . . and death
The dawn from on high has broken upon us in the birth of the infant in Bethlehem just six months after Zechariah’s prophetic announcement.  John would tell the world that one is coming, and indeed is now among God’s people, that has been sought for all generations of human life.  The one whose being is the light that dawns to dispel all darkness and conquer all death has entered the created order and transformed our future into hope through the justice and mercy of God. We celebrate again to know and to remember this ultimate truth: 

The dawn from on high shall break (has broken) upon us . . .
Several days ago, I stood at the back door in the cold December, facing the clear eastern sky where the stars were fading and faint pre-dawn shadows of the Bluffs across the river were beginning to take on color.  Suddenly the sky blazed with gold, rose and white streaks of diamond clear brightness, the   dawning light announcing a clear, perfect and clean morning on the world of Eastern Nebraska. 

Exhausted as I was by the trauma of world and national news, saddened by the death of a friend, impatient with the petty conflicts of overworked and weary co-workers, burdened by a long day ahead prepared for by a night short of sleep, I was totally stunned by the beauty, the promise, the glorious promise of “dearest freshness deep down things.” I startled myself and my little dog as I cried out Zechariah’s doxology:

In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us . . and guide our feet into the WAY.
All the darkness and shadow of death passed from my heart as I stood there in astonishment, captivated by nature’s repetition of the age-old promise of salvation, made present in a child who has come, is coming, and will eternally come into my heart bearing the peace for which my whole being yearns. 

As we sing in the Christmas festival tonight may your celebration of the sending of God’s Son into our broken world bring you every gift of grace you long for on this Vigil of Eternal-Mercy-outpouring wherever you are in God’s world!

Oh, Radiant dawn, splendor of eternal light . . . come . . .

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