Advent Reading – Benedictus

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people.”  Luke 1:68

The Benedictus, also called the “Song of Zechariah”, is one of three hymns or canticles found in the opening chapters of Luke. The name is Latin and simply means “blessed.” After announcing the name of his son would be “John” through the means of a writing tablet, Zechariah’s mouth was “opened” and his mute condition placed on him by the angel Gabriel was removed. Immediately after the blessing of speech had returned, Zechariah’s first words were a great song unto the Lord.

The Benedictus can be divided into two sections. Verses 68-75 comprise the first and are an offering of thanksgiving to God for His kept Messianic promises. Through the house of His servant David, God has come to His people with the hope of redemption. Verses 76-79 comprise the second section where Zechariah acknowledges how his own son will be mightily used by God to fulfill the redemptive purposes prophesied in the Old Testament. Zechariah’s song provides a beautiful glimpse into the continuity between the Old Testament and the New. He says that God “will remember His holy covenant” so that all people can serve Him in “holiness and righteousness.” God “remembering” His covenant depicts a God of action, one who is faithful to His word.

What is perhaps most striking about Zechariah’s song is his faithfulness to remember the metanarrative of Scripture. Tempting as it may have been to focus solely on his son’s role as the predecessor of Jesus, Zechariah steps back to see how this singular event plays into the big story of God’s incredible revelation. It can be difficult sometimes to remember that Bible stories are not just a fun and perhaps helpful collection of individual moral lessons to help us get by in life. Each and every story perfectly and intentionally fits with the next to unveil what God has been doing and will continue to do with His universe. When Jesus the baby is placed inside a wooden manger, we also see Jesus the man placed upon a wooden cross. We teach our children right when we use Christmas not simply as a cartoonish story to relate the coming of Jesus, but rather as a part of God’s ongoing big picture of redemption.

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