The announcement of John the Baptist’s birth is greeted by Zechariah in the words we know as the Benedictus. The thing that is most striking about this song of praise is the way in which it points in two directions at the same time. John is the last of the Old Testament prophets, anticipating God’s promised rescue of Israel from the hand of their enemies.
But as we read through Luke 1 it begins to dawn on us that a climactic day has arrived in the birth of John. Now with John’s coming we shall see that he will prepare the way for one who will finally bring these promises to fruition. He ‘brings the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins’ (Luke 1:77).
It is this description of the significance of Christmas which I find striking. As Jesus is anticipated by John’s ministry we are told: ‘… the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.’
The imagery used here is very dramatic. In the same way that we can look towards the glow of an emerging sunrise in the east and anticipate all the freshness and opportunity of a new sunny day, so in Jesus Christ, we have a new day dawning which will bring about forgiveness and peace. The rising of the sun (Son) of God is truly the dawning of a new day. It is a day which Zechariah got a first glimpse of. But we have the great privilege of basking in the glory of the Son of God – enjoying his presence and peace.
Christmas Day is a great day – a Son day. But it anticipates a great rising of the Son of God. Having died on the cross to buy peace and forgiveness of sin he rose again on the third day. The rising Son is the same Emmanuel – God with us now.