Today’s Scripture reading: Luke 1:67–80.
Whether the songs are sacred or secular, Christmas is a singing season. In the Gospel of Luke, we read the original four Christmas songs: Mary’s “Magnficat” (1:46–56), Zechariah’s “Benedictus” (1:67–80), the angels’ “Gloria” (2:8–14), and Simeon’s “Nunc Dimittis” (2:25–33). We have already looked at Mary’s “Magnficat”; today and tomorrow, I want to look at Zechariah’s “Benedictus.” It tells us something important about Christ and something important about ourselves.
Here’s the first half of the song:
Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us —
to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days (verses 68–75).
Notice the past tense of the verbs in the second line: “has come” and “redeemed.” When Zechariah offers this prayer, Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection lie 30 years in the future. Yet so certain is the victory God will accomplish through Christ that Zechariah can speak of it as an already accomplished action.
What redemption does Jesus’ coming into the world purchase? Zechariah uses two prepositions: from and to. Through Christ, Zechariah says, God has redeemed us “from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.” Zechariah is no doubt thinking in national and religious terms. As a good Jew living in the hill country of Judea, he interprets the birth of Jesus as deliverance of Israel from the oppressive power of the Romans. And in a sense, he’s right. The work of Jesus Christ ultimately undoes the oppressive power of any government that disobeys God’s law and violates the human rights of its citizens. Jesus does this as His Church earnestly follows Him and applies truly Christlike principles to the society in which it lives. But more immediately, the work of Jesus Christ delivers people from the original Axis of Evil: sin, death and the devil. Compared to that Axis, human governments are mere pikers.
So, deliverance is deliverance from. But it is also deliverance to. Pay attention to verses 74–75: Through Christ, God redeemed his people “to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”
Zechariah says “without fear” because “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4.18). When we receive God’s love and return it to Him, our fear of divine judgment gives way to joy in divine grace. And out of that grace, our spiritual and moral character changes. God replaces our sin with his “holiness and righteousness.”
What has Christ redeemed you from? What has Christ redeemed you to? Let your life in Christ become your personal Christmas song today!
P.S. This article is cross-posted at InfluenceMagazine.com. For earlier posts in the Songs of Christmas devotional, see here: