“Long lay the world in sin and error pining …”
So goes the lyric line in “O Holy Night,” one of our most popular Christmas carols. This is the truth about how things are and how things were just before the coming of Jesus to earth.
Still, there were those who refused to bury the hopes that they heard in the Scriptures. The flicker of longing in them would not be allowed to burn out. They kept looking for the One promised and did the things that God told them to do. They refused to forsake the small things. The commandments of God mattered and they followed them the best that they could.
And then came an angel.
Gabriel’s Good News
Gabriel showed up in the Temple as Zacharias fulfilled his priestly duties at the altar of incense. This surprise visit stunned the priest. He was there representing the people and their prayers before the Lord, as Moses had instructed.
On this day, Zacharias was told that his prayers and those of his barren wife, Elizabeth, were about to be answered. This couple, described in Luke 1 as “blameless’ in their ways of following the Lord, were to be the parents of John the Baptist.There were those who refused to bury the hopes that they heard in the Scriptures. The flicker of longing in them would not be allowed to burn out. Click To Tweet
“The doubts and fears of all the years” weighed heavily on Zacharias. He had waited and watched for so long. He had dried his wife’s tears so many times. The sudden appearance of one dispatched from the throne room of Heaven shocked his system. And apparently, it wasn’t enough of a jolt him out of his unbelief. ““How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years,” he said (see Luke 1:18).
That would be Zacharias’ last negative confession for several months. God muted His priest until He fulfilled the promise made to him. The day would come when Elizabeth gave birth to man appointed to a great and powerful mission.
And then came a prophet.
Prepare the Way
John the Baptist was a man unlike any other. He danced around his mother’s belly on the day that Mary, who was then pregnant with Jesus, came to visit Elizabeth.
This man would be full of the Spirit and carry the message of repentance. He told people to prepare the way for the Lord. He lived off a diet of locusts and honey and dressed in rough camel skins and leather. He must have been some sight. His words hit home with many, especially John and Andrew.
These men listened when John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” They proceeded to follow Jesus, brought their brothers to Him, and were numbered as Apostles. The Baptist told them of Jesus and prepared these men to be baptized with His Fire.
And then came the Son.
The Waiting is Over
Two marvelous believers are mentioned in Luke 2. Simeon and Anna were in their 80s and yet they clung to the promises of God. Their expectation of the Messiah stayed strong. They did not retire and put up their feet. They ventured to the Temple and fell on their faces before the Lord.
One day, He was right there. The arms of Mary held the Salvation of Israel, the Hope for the World. The Spirit hold told Simeon of this moment, and he waited and watched. I can see the jolly ancient saint taking Jesus from His mother and prancing through the Temple with joy. Soon, Anna would join the celebration, shouting thanks to the Lord and telling everyone that Redemption had arrived.
And He shall come again.
Coming: A New Morning
The Christmas stories of the Gospels show us that there should be “a thrill of hope” in our hearts. Yes, the world still lies in sin and error. The pressures of our times and the confusions of this age persist and wax worse and worse. Prayers prayed for so long can seem as if they will never be answered.
But God is faithful and shall perform all that He has promised. Consider this. Meditate upon it. Hold fast to the Truth. The weary world needs believers like us. It is its only hope.
Believe it. Keep looking for the Son. For one yonder day, there shall break “a new and glorious morn. ”
What are we to do? Just was the Christmas carol tells us to do: “Fall on our knees.”
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
‘Til He appeared and the Soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees; O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born
O night, O holy night, O night divine!