Monday, December 23, 2013

The Path Of Peace - A Christmas Prequel

There are tons of movies that have sequels. A sequel is sort of the next episode - part II. The Christmas movie "Home Alone" had a sequel, "Home Alone 2".  It's just a continuation. The opposite of a sequel is a prequel. A prequel is a movie that tells a story that precedes the original movie. For example, "The Planet Of The Apes" came out originally, and then, years later, a prequel came out, "The Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes" which described how it all started. I know you can think of many more examples yourself.

Well, the story of the birth of Christ, as found in the New Testament,  has a prequel too. This prequel begins 15 months before the birth of Jesus, and it starts with a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He and his wife, Elizabeth, had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.

One day, it was his turn to perform his duty at the temple, burning incense in the sanctuary. Suddenly, an angel appeared to him and said, "Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth."  But Zechariah had doubts and asked, "How can I be sure this will happen?" Because of that doubt, the angel, Gabriel, the same angel who appeared to Mary 6 months later, told Zechariah that he would not be able to speak until his son, who would become John the Baptist, was born. 

So for 9 months Zechariah was dumb, speechless. When his son was to be circumcised at 8 days old, they were to name him. Everyone thought he would be named after his father, but Zechariah wrote on a tablet that his name should be John. At that moment his speech was miraculously returned to him. And the first thing he did was to praise God. He also prophesied about the coming Messiah. Here's what he said...

"Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79 NLT)

I can just hear the excitement in his voice, perhaps yelling at the top of his lungs those words, trying to convince everyone that something big, really big, was about to take place. He was predicting the birth of Jesus!  Six months before it happened!

The "morning light from heaven" is a reference for Jesus. Jesus was about to come to earth - from the spiritual to enter in the physical realm. A similar title for Jesus is found in the book of Revelation. The bright "Morning Star". In astronomy, Venus is called the bright morning star because in some months, it appears just before dawn, heralding in a new day. Another word used in this text is Dayspring, meaning a new era or a new order of things. What Zechariah was saying is that the Messiah is about to come, about to break upon us, bringing a new era, and bringing light in a dark world. 

Jesus is called the light of the world. The Apostle John describes Jesus as the light. "The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world." (John 1:9 NLT)  The Apostle John also says, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it." (John 1:5 NLT)

What does this light do? This light that can never be extinguished?  First it reveals. In other words, Jesus, the light, reveals God to us. Through His life - through His word. Secondly, the light, Jesus, illuminates our way. He brings light - new light -  to those who sit in darkness - those without hope, those locked in the bondage of sin and despair.  He offers forgiveness and a way to be right with God. Instead of being in conflict with God, we can be in a loving relationship with Him, through Christ.

Notice Zechariah's words, that the morning light from heaven will "guide us to the path of peace". What he was predicting is that Jesus, the light, will illuminate for us the way to the path of peace. Jesus show us how to find this path. Who wouldn't want to walk on the path of peace as we go through this life? This walkway of peace is sure better than the road of chaos, confusion, and despair. Jesus offers us the path and He is always calling, "Come, follow me."

Also notice how Zechariah says that the coming light, which will illuminate the way to peace, inner peace, and peace with God, is all the result of "God's tender mercy". What a Christmas present!

The prophet Isaiah, when prophesying about the coming birth of Christ, 700 years before it happened, referred to Jesus as the "Prince of Peace." 

This Christmas, if you are not already walking on the path of peace, may you let the true light of heaven guide your way to it.  May the Prince of Peace guide you to the Path of Peace. 

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