Advent is almost here! As you may know, our tradition here at Zion is to have Wednesday evening services during Advent focused on a theme. Sometimes we have read through a particular book of the Bible, other times we have focused on a particular hymn.
This year, our midweek services will focus on the Scripture narratives in Luke 1-2 where the birth of Jesus is announced and anticipated to the people of God. These stories have one thing in common: they are filled with music! Four of the church’s most important canticles (chanted hymns based on a Bible text) are found right in these first two chapters of Luke. These canticles express hope and faith in the coming Messiah who will fulfill the promises that God had made to his people of old. As the people of God who live after Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have seen the fulfillment of these promises in Jesus.
Because they so clearly express faith and hope in our Savior, the church has adopted these canticles as our own prayers and songs to God. For instance, the Gloria in Excelsis (Luke 2:14) is used in the divine service as a hymn of praise. With the angels above, we give glory to God in the highest for the peace and favor toward mankind that he has shown in Jesus. We sing the Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2:29-32) as a response to the gift of forgiveness through Jesus’ body and blood in communion. With Simeon we thank the Lord that our eyes have now seen the salvation of the Lord. The Benedictus (Luke 1:68-79) is used in Matins. With Zechariah we give thanks to God for visiting and redeeming his people through his Son. Finally, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) is sung during vespers. With Mary we magnify the Lord and rejoice in God our Savior, for the great things he has done to us in Christ.
I encourage each of you to make some time to come and hear the expanded Christmas story. Hear the story of Zechariah in the Temple, who hears the promise of the birth of John the Baptist, who will prepare the way of the Lord. Hear the story of Mary as she visits Elizabeth and exclaims with joy her faith in God. Hear of Simeon, who was promised he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. Hear of the angels who announced to the shepherds the good will of the father toward all men in the birth of His Son. Come sing their songs with us as we rejoice together in the birth of our Savior. We look forward to seeing you in worship and pray that this Advent would be a blessing to all.