I love canticles. I ‘can’t’ get enough of them. Seriously though, I think the great canticles of the scripture capture the greatness and beauty of God, but also serve a secondary purpose. They encourage us to let the joy of our hearts burst forth from our lips in a song of praise. Each and every one of us has a canticle in our heart. I’m such a firm believer of this that I once took a canticle I wrote to our parish council as the opening prayer, though I quickly learned that asking people to pray something with your name on it in size 28 font is a little awkward. Anyway, my love of canticles has drawn me to today’s gospel, the Canticle of Zechariah.
In particular I was drawn to the last words of the gospel. I think the final words expressing what God is doing through the incarnation are powerful words for us to reflect on before Christmas tomorrow morning.
In the tender compassion of our God…
This compassion is important. The scandal of God’s love came to a culmination on the cross, but began at his birth. A distant God with good intentions, or even a severe God with a sense of duty, would save us with a distant decree. But it is our truly loving God that saves us by coming to our level. Pope Francis words it like this, “God saves us not with a decree, but a caress.” The scandal of the incarnation, of the manger turned crib, is the affirmation of the tender compassion of God.
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,…
This love is not something I earn any more than I earn the sunlight in the morning. That will break upon me regardless. Receiving that sunlight can change the way I live, but I cannot thwart the rising of the sun and nor can I compel the Lord to stop loving.
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
And what does this love do. It saves us. It reaches those dwelling in darkness. It saves us from something. But it also guides us toward peace. It saves us for something. Or rather he does. Jesus not only saves us from darkness but guides us into peace.
So as we prepare for Christmas tomorrow, let us offer great thanksgiving for what we have been saved from and ask for guidance toward what we are being saved for.
– Spencer Hargadon