Every morning, the Church greets the dawn with prayer. One of the daily morning prayers of the Church: the canticle which Zechariah sang when he learned that the Christ had come. Monks, nuns, priests, and many lay people, too: we all sing or recite this same song as part of our prayers every morning.
“Blessed be the Lord Who has come to His people and raised up a mighty Savior, fulfilling His promises to the prophets.”
Zechariah’s song expresses the content of God’s promise in a particularly eloquent fashion. The Lord promised to free His people from the hands of enemies, so as to be able to “worship without fear, holy and righteous in God’s sight.” The newborn Savior will make this possible for us: to worship God without fear, standing before Him in holiness.
This is mankind’s peace, this upright, unburdened worship of the Almighty. We hear in the Christmas gospel about how the angels sang: “Glory to God, peace to people of good will.” This is salvation: worshiping our Maker with a heart at rest, with a tranquil conscience.
Ancient Israel had many enemies, but the true enemy is sin, falseness–interior emptiness that leads only to death. Sin makes it impossible to worship our Creator and Lord fearlessly. Because truth is truth, and the eyes of God see everything. If we are not in a state of genuine honesty with ourselves, we will never be in a state of real peace.
Christ has come precisely to set us free from the clutches of this, our greatest enemy: our self-destructive dishonesty with ourselves. Our foolish, grandiose pride. The wise among us have always declared, “Thy first duty is to know thyself!” And no goal has ever proven more impossible for us to achieve.
Christ did not come to the earth to tell us that we are wonderful, that we are hot-shots, that we have it all together. Because we aren’t, and we don’t. What He came to do is: die for us, out of love for all of us incorrigible sinners.
So that we can stand fearlessly before God Almighty and admit the truth: We are not perfect. We are not divine. We are miserable scrubs. We are helpless and lost without God’s help. Christ has liberated us from our laughable pretenses by His beautiful demonstration of the fact that He loves pathetic scrubs. He loves hapless losers.
He’s really only interested in losers and scrubs. The perfect, beautiful people He leaves to their own devices, to enjoy their supposed awesomeness in their own realm of self-sufficiency. Which is actually a kingdom of broken mirrors and disappointment that never ends.
But, for us feckless bumblers, the love of Jesus can give us the courage to know ourselves in the truth. He shed His blood for our sins, so all we have to do is confess them, in the great act of Christian honesty which fulfills all the ancient prophecies. ‘Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ ‘Child, your faith has saved you! Your sins are forgiven. Go your way.’
Then we can worship God without fear! We can know the thrilling peace of a day lived completely in the truth. And we can watch with joy as the dawn from on high breaks upon us, in all its glory.
Praised be the Lord Jesus Christ, now and forever and ever and ever.