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Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Morning: Song of Simeon

Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.
Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed, and a sword will pierce through your own soul also, so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.
Oh, what a blessed day!  Did you see Him!?!?!  Did you SEE Him?!?!?!  That little baby, the one that I just held so tenderly in my arms, and did you hear His name?  They called Him Jesus, meaning “God Saves!”  How appropriate, because God will indeed save through that child, for He is the Lord’s Anointed One, the Redeemer of the world.  And I, Simeon, a simple man of Jerusalem, had the privilege, the honor, the blessing of holding God’s own Son in my arms!  Oh, please excuse me.  I must sound absolutely crazy to you.  Let me explain.
            Shalom.  God’s peace to you.  My name is Simeon.  I have anxiously anticipated this day like the watchman waits for the morning.  You see, like many I have been eagerly waiting for the consolation of Israel, that is, I have been waiting for the long expected Messiah to appear.  Years ago the Lord revealed to me that I would see His Anointed One with my very own eyes before I die.  Little did I know I would be able to hold Him in my arms.  Oh, what a blessed day!  I have thought about this day and what would be like many times.  But I have to be honest, I did not expect it would happen in this way.  I don’t quite know what I was imagining, but I definitely did not expect to see the Savior of the world come as a baby.  It’s hard to imagine that child being the Lord’s Christ, but I digress.  Let me tell you about what I experienced today.
            Today, I was simply going about my business when the Lord spoke to me, and told me to come to His temple.  I didn’t quite know what awaited me, but I hurried as fast as I could.  When I first arrived, I was a little disappointed.  It seemed like business as usual.  People were coming and going, bringing their offerings to the Lord.  The priests were going about their temple duties paying no attending to the crowds surrounding them.  I was just about to ask God why He had brought me here, but then, I saw them; three figures making their way anonymously through the crowd.  No one was paying any attention to the small family as they approached, for there wasn’t anything special about their appearance.
They looked like any other poor peasant family would.  With the tiny baby in their arms you could tell that they were coming for the purification of the mother and the dedication of their firstborn son as required by the Law of Moses.  They brought with them two pigeons as an offering, the alternative sacrifice for those who could not afford a lamb.  Nothing in particular made them stand out from the faceless crown surrounding the temple.  Even when they caught my eye, I didn’t notice at first, but then the Lord spoke: “This little child, this infant, is My Son, My Anointed One.  He is the glory of Israel and the light to the Gentiles.”  And with that my eyes were opened to see what the masses couldn’t. 
I couldn’t help myself and rush over to them.  I asked His parents if they would let me take Him in my arms.  They were surprised at my request, but willing to do so.  When I took Him, I felt…I felt alive in a way that I never have before.  I felt the Lord’s Spirit stirring within me as I looked upon this little child.  There was a beauty, and innocence, and majesty in his eyes that I couldn’t even begin to describe.  I knew, as I stood there holding Him that I was now holding the coming Christ.  My eyes have seen God’s salvation, as He revealed to me by His Word, and I was at peace.  I am free to depart like the watchman who sees the rising sun, for the Son has finally been revealed.  My days of waiting are over.  OUR days of waiting ARE OVER.
As Isaiah foretold of old, God is doing a new thing.  Through this child, He will establish a covenant of peace for all peoples, Jew and Gentile alike.  Through His Christ, God will gather all nations to Himself, bringing justice to the oppressed, giving sight to the blind, making the lame dance and the mute shout for joy.  All knees will bow and all tongues confess that He is God alone.  To those who sit in darkness He brings this marvelous light of revelation: this child will deliver the world from our sins.  Surely, God’s Spirit rests upon Him in a way like never before, for when this child entered the temple God Himself returned to His Holy House.
For when I looked into His eyes I saw much.  I saw life, and I saw death.  I saw hope, and I saw despair.  I saw the beginning, and I saw the end.  In Him, I saw everything there was, and is and is to come, for in this little baby, I saw the very presence of God.  The heavens sing for joy and the earth exalts Him, for the one who has stretched out the heavens with His hand and laid the foundations of the earth has come to redeem His people!  The Lord has returned to Zion!  His salvation is here!  This is the news that I declare to you today!  As Isaiah declared, “The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
There are no words to describe the moment I realized what child this is all that lay before Him.  At first, I was amazed that God would choose such a birth, but as I gazed into His eyes the words of the prophets rang in my ears.  “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.  As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.”  
Who will believe me?   Who has seen the arm of the Lord revealed?  For this child is God’s servant.  He will be great before the Lord, obeying all He has said, but He will be despised and rejected by men.  As Isaiah predicts, “Surely he will bare our griefs and carry our sorrows; yet we will esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he will be pierced for our transgressions; he will be crushed for our iniquities; upon him will be the chastisement that brings us peace, and with his wounds we will healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He will be lead like a lamb to the slaughter, and on account of His suffering and anguish we, who have gone astray, will be counted as righteous.  For our sake, he will bear our sins so that we might be inheritors of His kingdom.  It is for this reason that the Christ child has been born.  No doubt He will cause the fall and rise of many, for He is a sign to be opposed.  But for those who have faith, we will be redeemed and with everlasting love the Lord will show compassion on us.  His steadfast love will never depart from us and His covenant of peace will never be removed.  We shall be with the Lord forever.  And we shall have all this for the sake of this child.

So did you see Him?  Did you see the Christ child?  Did you see Jesus?  He is the Anointed One, God’s Salvation come at last!  Now, please excuse me, as I must go tell all that will listen!  Shalom.  Oh, Anna!  Anna, I’ve got something to tell you!

Sunday, December 21, 2014


            In the age of communication, we are surrounded by voices.  Especially in this busy time of the year, we are bombarded with advertisements and year-end pleas.  People telling us why we’ve got to have their product or why it’s the best one out there.  People telling us to donate in order to save the rainforest or feed the children.  These voices are always calling out to us, trying to capture our resources.  But there are other voices too, voices with a different goal in mind.  Voices that try to capture us and lure us away from our God, and they will say whatever they need in order to get their way: sometimes they entice; sometimes they pressure; sometimes they accuse.
            The voices that entice promise us happiness.  They draw us to themselves by promising us whatever we want.  They tell us that we deserve to be happy; that we deserve to have love; that we deserve nice things.  These voices feed off our selfishness and sense of entitlement, and tell us if we don’t listen we will be miserable and unhappy.
The voices that pressure promise us acceptance.  They coerce us by telling us that everyone is doing it.  They tell us if we don’t make waves we will be liked; if we go along with the rest we will have friends; if we join in we will be popular.  These voices feed off our desire to belong, and tells us if we don’t listen we will be rejected and alone.
            The voices that accuse threaten punishment unless we conform.  These voices can be the strongest of all because they shame us by telling us we are in the wrong.  They tells us that we are being unloving and need to do the “loving” thing; that we are being oppressive and judgmental and need to let others be happy; they tell us that we are being hateful and offensive and need to support others no matter what.  These voices feeds off our sense of guilt, and tell us if we don’t listen and relent, we will be judged and punished.
            All these voices speak directly to our heart.  They target our innermost desires and fears, desires and fears that were given to us by our God to draw us closer to Himself, but in our sinful nature they have been corrupted and turn to other voices instead.  With the cacophony of voices, it’s hard to know which voices to listen to.  Even as a Christian it is hard to know which voices to listen to and follow.
Recently I was having a conversation with a close friend of mine.  She wanted to know why I couldn’t support her relationship.  She accused me of being unfair and insulting.  What made it worse was that I wanted so badly to support her, to tell her that what she was doing was okay, and to tell her that I was happy for her, but I couldn't.  Despite what my heart wanted, I knew God's Word said otherwise, and I had to stand firm in God's Word.  I'm sure you've been a situation like that too, where you were caught between someone you love and what you know to be right.  Those voices creep in and try to lure you away from the Truth.  Your heart begs you to give in and relent, promising all will be well if you do.  Unfortunately, our hearts, like everything else in the fall, are corrupt and also lead us astray.
In the beginning, everything was perfect.  Everything was ordered just the way God intended.  Everything had its place and knew its purpose.  That was, anyway, until Satan appeared to Eve in the garden.  Satan tempted Eve, telling her that God was holding back on her.  He made Eve doubt God’s voice.  He enticed Eve into rebelling against God, sowing in her the desire to become her own god.  When Adam and Eve sinned all the world fell with them.  Creation plummeted into chaos.  God cast Adam and Eve from the Garden out of mercy, so that their sin may be condemned in the flesh and die, but He promised, by His Word, that one day an offspring of Eve would rise up and crush Satan under His feet.
            Though this promise wasn’t forgotten, the world went on.  People began listening to other voices, voices of sin and death and the devil, turning farther and farther from God.  Wickedness and evil increased until God intervened with the flood, washing away all the unrighteous and leaving only faithful Noah and his family.  As time continued people yet again turned to other voices so that wickedness and evil grew once more.  Humanity decided to set themselves up as gods by building a tower that reached toward the heavens.  God came down in judgment to destroy the tower, scattering the people and confusing their languages in order to curb the wickedness of the world.  Through it all, God’s promise remained, yet to the sinful world it remained a mystery.
Indeed, as St. Paul says in our epistle, the promise remained secret for long ages until it began being disclosed by the prophets.  When the time was right, God started revealing His plan for salvation, calling Abraham forth, promising to make him a father of many nations and saying that his descendants would be a blessing to the world.  The Israelites became God’s chosen people; His instrument; His mouthpiece to all the world.  Through them, God spoke His Word and declared that a Messiah, an Anointed One, was to come and redeem them.  This Messiah would suffer for their sake, and through His sufferings establish a new covenant with all people, a covenant of peace.  For though the people constantly turned from God, the Messiah was going to restore them.  His obedience and suffering He would atone for all people, and save us from our sins.  Through His sacrifice, He would establish the throne of David forever.  This is God’s eternal Word.
            In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  And the Word became flesh and dwelled among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  The fullness of God’s promise and glory was revealed in its entirety through Jesus Christ.  Hear me, dear brothers and sisters.  The time of advent is ending.  The night is almost over!  The radiant Sun is about to be revealed!
            Listen to me, dear Christians, and just as St. Paul declared, let Him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel, according to the Gospel that has been made known to all nations and given to you and to me, that has become our own, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried, let Him speak to you and tell you of all He has done.
It was for this reason that Christ stepped down from His heavenly throne, wrapped Himself in flesh, and came into our world so long ago.  Listen, dear brothers and sisters, listen to the cries of Mary as she cries out in labor.  Listen to the cries of a baby humbly born in a manger.  Listen to the cries of the angels as they exclaim “Gloria in Excelsis!”  Listen to the cries of the shepherds as they proclaim the news to all that would hear.  Listen to the cry of one calling out in the wilderness to prepare the way for our Lord.  But listen, for the cries of Christmas are nothing without the cries of Good Friday.   
Listen.  Listen to the cries of the religious leaders as they accuse our Lord.  Listen to the cries of the crowd as they scream to crucify Him.  Listen to the cries of the soldiers as they mock and beat Jesus.  Listen to the cries of the women of Jerusalem as Jesus is lead away to be crucified.  Listen to the cries of the nails as they are driven into Christ’s hands and feet.  Listen to the cries of Mary at the foot of the cross, as the blood flows down Christ’s mangled body.  Listen to the cries of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders as they demand that Christ save Himself.  Listen to the cries of our Savior as He cries out, “IT IS FINISHED!”  Listen to the cries of the heavens and earth as the thunder rips through the sky and rocks shake and split.  Listen to the cry of the centurion as he declares that “Truly, this was the Son of God.”
But keep listening, for the cries of Good Friday are nothing without the cries of Easter.  Listen!  Listen to the cries of the women at the empty tomb!  Listen to the cries of the angel as he declares that Jesus is no longer among the dead but is risen!  Listen to the cries of the believers who saw Jesus after His resurrection!  Listen to the cries of Jesus as he declares, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Listen to the cries of the angels that promise Christ will return.  Listen to the cry of the Holy Spirit as He descends upon the world, and listen, listen to the cries of the Apostles at Pentecost as for the first time the mystery of the Gospel is revealed in its fullest by man.
For this is the same Gospel preached today.  I share this Gospel with you, as St. Paul did, to bring about the obedience of faith.  This obedience is not one of the law, but one that knows Christ is the fulfillment of the Law.  This obedience is not one that says that something left to be done, but one that knows Christ did it all for us.  This is the obedience of faith, the obedience that comes from hearing the eternal Gospel proclaimed and clings to every word.  The obedience of faith hears the promises of God and holds fast despite what else it may hear.  Therefore, when we hear of the promises of the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting, we respond by saying, “YES!  YES!  I BELIEVE!”  For we know Christ did not come into the world to condemn it, but so that we are saved through Him.  So listen to the voice of Christ when He says, “I did it all for you!”  Listen to the voice of Christ when He says, “You are forgiven!”  Listen to the voice of Christ when he says, “Beloved, go in peace!”
Listen to His voice, for in the end it is the only voice that matters.  On the day of Christ’s return, all other voices will be wiped away.  So as we wait, listen.  Listen, be still, and know that He is God.  May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Advent Midweek 2: Song of Mary

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.
            Last week we began our journey alongside people who were part of the Christmas story.  First, we encountered Zechariah as Gabriel appeared before him in the temple, bringing him the news that Elizabeth would conceive and bear a son, and that son would be named John.  He would be the prophet of the Most High and prepare the way for the Lord.  Tonight, we encounter another person, a well-known person, Mary, the mother of our Lord.
            We aren’t told much about Mary.  We are only told that she was a virgin and was engaged to a man named Joseph of the House of David.  While these details seem insignificant, they actually are quite important, for they fulfill prophecies concerning the coming Messiah.  Yet when Gabriel appeared to Mary and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” she was troubled and unsure what his presence and greeting had meant.  So Gabriel assured her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”  Gabriel told her that she would conceive and give birth to a son, and His name would be Jesus.
While Gabriel told Zechariah that John would be great before the Lord and called the prophet of the Most High, he told Mary that Jesus would be great and called the Son of the Most High.  While John made for the Lord a people prepared, the Lord was going to give to Jesus the throne of David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.  Like Zechariah, this was a tall order for Mary to take in, but unlike Zechariah who responded in disbelief, Mary responded in faith and trust.
            She asked Gabriel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”  Her question was not of doubt, but one that desired to know the will and work of God.  Gabriel responded by saying, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.  And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.  For nothing will be impossible with God.”   This was enough for Mary, she was satisfied with all Gabriel told her, “And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”” And Gabriel departed from her.
            Could you imagine?  You’re sitting there, going about your business, when an angel appears and tells you that you are going to be the mother of God.  How do you respond?  How do you react?  Add on top of that, Mary wasn’t even married yet.  She was a virgin!  The possibility of conceiving a child is absolutely absurd!  And what would this do to her?  People would talk, adultery would be assumed.  We know that when Joseph found out, he went to go and break off their engagement.  This was a major inconvenience in her life and she had every right to protest and say, “Not me, God!  Find someone else!”  …But that’s not what Mary did.  She accepted all of this by faith.
            In fact, soon as she got the chance she rushed to visit Elizabeth out in the hill country.  When Elizabeth heard her greeting she said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”…And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”  Elizabeth did not pity Mary, but called her blessed!  Mary herself responded by saying, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed.”  There it is again.  Blessed.  But what does this word mean?
            If you aren’t aware of it, in this age of communication there is a trend sweeping through social media and networking sites.  This trend, is called “the hashtag.”  A hashtag is a word or phrase prefixed with a hash mark, also known as the number sign, to form a label.  In order to see what I mean, look down at your bulletin and there you will see as the sermon title, “Song of Mary: #Blessed.”  No, that is not a typo; that is a hashtag.  Hashtags are often used to categorize posts so they can easily be referenced later.  Hashtags are used in advertising, marketing, campaigning, researching trends and so on, but it has also become popular to informally use a hashtag to add some kind of emotion or sentiment to post.  Some of these popular hashtags include #love, #happy, #bored, and as our sermon title tonight shows, #blessed.
            If you search for the hashtag blessed, you will discover all kinds of things that our culture considers as being “blessed.”  Social media sites are full of people who feel blessed because they were accepted into college or were nominated for some kind of award or went on an exotic getaway or met a celebrity or received a job promotion and so on.  While many of these things are good things, are they really blessings?  Do they really make someone “blessed?”
            What did Mary mean when she said that “from now on all generations will call me blessed?”  What would make her so special that all generations would turn to her and recognize her as blessed?  We know, of course, that Mary was blessed because she was chosen by God for a very special duty.  She was given the honor of being the mother of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world.  Though she was not chosen because of any merit or worthiness in her, but as she sings, “for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
            The definition of “blessed” is “to be made holy, to be consecrated.”  To be set apart.  Mary was set apart for this very act because God looked upon the humble estate of His servant, and out of His mercy He exalted her.  But even more so, Marry was not only blessed because she was chosen by God to be the one to carry Christ in her womb, but because Christ carried her from death to life.  It is out of His mercy that God sent His Son into this world to redeem His children.  It is out of His mercy that God has shown the strength of His arm by overcoming sin and death.  It is out of His mercy that He blessed not only Mary, but all of His people.  For “He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.
            We too are blessed.  We too are set apart.  God has called us by the Gospel, not out of any worthiness or merit in us, but out of His divine love and mercy.  He has set us apart as a people prepared for Himself because just as Mary bore Christ within herself, Christ bore our sins within Himself upon the cross.  We are blessed, because we are baptized.  We are blessed because we are set apart, we are consecrated, made holy by the sufferings and death of Christ, and called to lead a holy life in our own sufferings and death.  We are blessed because Christ humbled Himself to come to us in our lowly estate of sin and death and exalt us into His righteousness and life.  He paid the ransom so that we could be born again into this new life, one full of righteousness and free of the guilt of sin.  This, dear Christians, is what truly makes us blessed.  So as we continue in this Advent season, we recognize our blessings through Christ and join Mary in magnifying the Lord and rejoicing in God our Savior.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Advent Midweek 1: Song of Zechariah

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.
Blessed Advent!  Last Sunday we began our journey through the Advent season.  During our midweek services we will be making this journey alongside the people who were part of this miraculous event.  We will be stepping into their world, their experiences, as they express and declare the work of God through an outburst of joyous song.  Tonight, we encounter Zechariah. 
As we read, Zechariah and his wife were righteous and walked blamelessly before the Lord.  Yet one thing was lacking from their life.  They were childless and well beyond the age to conceive.  This brought great shame and heartache, and children were considered the blessings and favor of the Lord.  Little did they know that God had already set into motion His plan of salvation, and that plan included them!
One day when Zechariah’s division was serving in the temple, Zechariah was chosen to offer the incense in the Holy Place.  This was once in a life time opportunity!  This was the closest anyone ever got to the Most Holy Place, the place where the Spirit of God rested as He dwelled with His people.  All that would separate Zechariah from the presence of God was a thin curtain.  Though this was a high privilege and honor, nothing out of the ordinary was expected to take place and it didn’t last long.
So when Zechariah was taking longer than expected, people began wondering what was happening.  Their imaginations could have only run wild with what was happening inside the temple.  When Zechariah finally emerged, he was unable to speak.  When the others saw this they knew that something had happened to him in the temple, that he must have seen a vision and that God was at work.
We have the privilege of knowing just what happened to Zechariah as he was offering incense to God.  Gabriel appeared and him the good news that Elizabeth was to give birth.  He told Zechariah to be name the child John, and told him that John will be great before the Lord.  Filled with the Holy Spirit, he would turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, making ready for the Lord a people prepared.
This news was almost too much for Zechariah.  Although he wanted to believe, human reason told him it was impossible, so he doubted.  He asked, “How could this possibly be?  We are MUCH too old to have children!”  Gabriel reminded him, “Do you not know who I am and where I come from?  I am Gabriel, and I stand in the presence of God Himself!  It is He who has told me to bring you this good news!”  But because Zechariah doubted God’s words, his own words were taken from him and he was unable to speak until God’s work had been fulfilled.
Soon after, Elizabeth did conceive and gave birth to a son.  Remembering Gabriel’s words, Zechariah named him John.  When this was done, Zechariah’s tongue was loosed and Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.”  Out of all the things he could have said, the first thing out of Zechariah’s mouth was a praise and blessing to the very God that rendered him mute.  Yet he knew that what was happening was much bigger than him.  He knew that the Lord their God was coming to His people.
Like Zechariah’s silence, God had been silent for over 400 years!  The last prophet, Malachi spoke around 430 BC.  In His letter, God rebuked the priests for despising His Word and not trusting in His promise.  They should have guarded the true knowledge of God, but instead by their instruction they lead many astray and caused many to stumble.   Yet the Lord is the Lord of Hosts and the King of the Nations and the Father to all the world.  Malachi warns them of the coming judgment in the Day of the Lord.  Yet before that happens, God promises to send a messenger, one who will preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins to prepare the way before Him.  Until the time of his coming, the Lord would remain silent.
Yet God opened the mouth of Zechariah and he prophesied.  This was it!  Zechariah knew God’s promise!  He heard the words of Gabriel!  The time was here, God was returning to His people and it is Zechariah’s son who is His messenger, His great prophet who is to go before Him to prepare the way of the Lord.  No wonder these were the first words out of his mouth.  His silence was over, but even more importantly God’s silence was over.  The day of His salvation is near.
For in that day, “we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”  On the day of His salvation, God will wipe away all our enemies, including sin, death, and the devil!  He will show us His mercy and deliver us from our sins, so that we will serve him in all holiness and righteousness without fear forever.  What a great and awesome God and Father we have!  Though we are unfaithful, He remains faithful.  Though we are wavering, He remains steadfast.  He has come to his people once again!
Zechariah turns from his praise of God to his own son, the one who was chosen by God to be His messenger.  “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Though the priests of old by their instruction led people astray and caused them to stumble, this child would bring people to true knowledge of their God, to the knowledge of their salvation!  He would preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins, calling them from the darkness and the shadow of death, guiding them to the light, for God is merciful to those who call upon His name.

That light, dear Christians, we know is Christ Jesus.  He is our salvation, He is the light of the world.  Jesus Christ, became flesh for our sake, to fulfill the Law for us, take our sin upon Himself and make the ultimate sacrifice, so that we who trust in Him are called the children of the Most Holy God, and He is our Father.  So in this Advent season, we cling to the promise of His salvation and join Zechariah in singing praise to the God of Israel.