Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Let God’s grace empower us to speak up

St. Luke 1:57-80
57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.
59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. 60 But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” 61 They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” 62 Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.
Zechariah’s Prophecy
67 Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a mighty savior[a] for us
in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
72 Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us 74 that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
78 By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon[b] us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
80 The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

Elizabeth and Zechariah rejoice along with others on Elizabeth giving birth to a child. The people rejoice with them as well. But then they come to the point of having to make a critical decision. They have to name the baby. Those present naturally think it is going to be Zechariah, coming from the father and meaning “God remembers.” But to everyone’s surprise Elizabeth says that the baby’s name should be John which means “God is gracious.” The remembrance changes into the grace of God.

The onus immediately rests with Zechariah and he asks for a writing tablet. He could have written his own name giving importance to himself. But instead he writes John, giving all importance to God and God’s justice. “Unfortunately we sometimes write for ourselves. We should be able to transcend this and write for the benefit of others and for the rightful justice of others.”1 Zechariah was aware of what the angel told him but I don’t think that fear lead him to say what he did. Instead he does what he thinks is just and right. He writes perhaps what is the most important thing that he has ever written in his life.

Zechariah is aware of the justice people are yearning for. This can come only through God and acts of people who are close to God. Dec 2nd and 3rd commemorated thirty years of the worst industrial incident that took place in Bhopal. Thousands were killed and lakhs of people were maimed for life. Even today, children are suffering the after effects of the pollution which was brought about by corporate greed. But many have forgotten that Bhopal ever happened and others feel that they don’t live in Bhopal and so need not worry about it.

Elizabeth and Zechariah may not have had personal difficulties and problems. But the problems of others become their problems and the birth of a child to them becomes also their crusade against injustice. Zechariah regains his voice and prophesies
“By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon[b] us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

How meaningful a hope is this for people who have been suffering from human made calamities? Zechariah does not just speak to those who were there but offers hope to us, that darkness will indeed turn to light and things will turn around.

In the advent it is easy to get caught up with the spirit of the Christmas season with the gifts and festivities. For children the Christmas father, St. Nicholas becomes an unavoidable presence during carol rounds and celebrations. But how can we become like Zechariah and Elizabeth whose happiness was in bringing happiness to others? The grace of God or God is gracious was an onus to speak up and write for the justice and well being of others. This indeed gives others hope during the Christmas season. It is not anymore to suggest that this is our festival of remembering the birth of Jesus but to say that Jesus will open our mouths from slumber and inaction and make us strong and energetic however young or old we are.

It is not just to say that we remember, and this season is a festival of remembrance but to say that this is a time which tells us that God is gracious. Our gracious God will make us rise and prophecy like Zechariah did. We will be able to say that people who are made to suffer in darkness will indeed see light through the grace of God and the collective goodness of God’s people who come forward to work for God. May God be gracious and may we be graceful to use God’s grace for the betterment of humanity. Amen.


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