The Hymns of Advent – Benedictus

1st Mid-Week in Advent

Luke 1:67-79                

St. John, Galveston (2022)


+ In Nomine Jesu +


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.


This evening we begin a little Advent mini-series focusing on what are known as the Hymns of Advent. It’s a little grouping of hymns from the Gospel’s that speak of joy of God’s people as they prepared for Jesus’ coming into the world. The first such hymn is introduced to us in the Gospel reading for this evening from Luke 1. It is the song of Zechariah, the Father of John the Baptist. In the church’s Order of Matins, which is a morning service, Zechariah’s song is known as “the Benedictus.”


68       “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,

         For He has visited and redeemed His people,

69       And has raised up a horn of salvation for us

         In the house of His servant David…


Having praised God for the visitation of Jesus, Zechariah continues, as he speaks of his own child, John.


76       “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;

         For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,

77       To give knowledge of salvation to His people

         By the remission of their sins,

78       Through the tender mercy of our God,

         With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;

79       To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,

         To guide our feet into the way of peace.”


It is fitting that we reflect for a bit on the “Hymns of Advent” because Advent and Christmas are the seasons of music. I would dare say, if you asked a group of Christians to list several of their favorite hymns, many of them would mention hymns from this season of the church year.  “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Joy to the World” and “Silent Night” would probably be among those hymns. From the Advent season, perhaps “Comfort, Comfort These My People,” and “Prepare the Royal Highway, or “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptists Cry.” 


There is something about this season of the year that brings music and song to our hearts. It is only right, I suppose, after-all, music and song are the voice of the Church. Consequently, when Jesus was born, it was quite natural and fitting that such a majestic and awe-inspiring event should be accompanied with song.  Zachariah, gave us the Benedictus, Mary, the Magnificat, and the Angels who sang to the shepherds that night filled with mystery and wonder, gave us the Gloria in Excelsis, all three hymns being subsequently incorporated into the churches liturgy. 


In many ways, music is the voice of faith. Martin Luther once said, “next to theology no art is equal to music.” Luther made that comment because he recognized the tremendous value of music in the battle that rages daily between the Christian and the forces of darkness. Luther would go on to say, “music is the only one, except theology, which is able to give a quiet and happy mind. This is manifestly proved by the fact that the devil, the author of depressing care and distressing disturbances, flees from the sound of music as he does from the word of theology. This is the reason why the prophets practiced music more than any art and did not put their theology into geometry, into arithmetic, or into astronomy, but into music, intimately uniting the disciplines of Theology and music, telling the truth in psalms and songs.” 


The Benedictus demonstrates exactly what God can do in a person’s life through the power of His Word. Zechariah, like the virgin Mary, was visited by the Angel Gabriel and when he first heard the angel’s message, that his son would be the forerunner of the Christ, he doubted that it could be so. So much for the notion that God’s word would be easier to believe if it were handed down to us directly from heaven.  Zechariah heard God’s promise directly from the mouth of an angel and yet he doubted that God would fulfill it. Imagine that!! Zechariah was an ordinary man – certainly a priest of God, a worker in the Temple, but nonetheless, an ordinary man. Like you and me, he struggled to believe the promises that came from the mouth of God.  He struggled to simply stand in awe of all that God would do in preparation for the sending of His own Son.         


The Benedictus, however, is an Advent hymn that defies the doubt that filled Zechariah’s heart. Isn’t it amazing how tenderly God handles our faith and how powerfully He carries us from the place of doubt to the place of conviction and faith?

In the case of Zechariah, he found strength in remembering the faithfulness of God in ages past. 

68       “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,

         For He has visited and redeemed His people,

69       And has raised up a horn of salvation for us

         In the house of His servant David…


It may not seem like much, but there, in just of few words, is the summary of the entire Old Testament. “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel.”  Zechariah says blessed is the God who Covenants with His people, the God who fights for them, who suffers through their rebellion and their waywardness, the God who visits and redeems, the God who raises up a horn of salvation, the God who fulfills His promise to His servant David, the God who will give His own Son in exchange for the lost of the world. Zechariah sings the praise of His God because His God is worthy of praise. 


Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth would have a son. John would be his given name. We would come to know him as John the Baptist.  Imagine, a doubting father being so blessed by God that his son would be the one to make ready the way for the coming of the Dayspring from on high!! 


John’s mission would be to preach a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. You, my friends, are called today to repent of your doubt before God. You are called to a simple trust in the Lord God of Israel, the One who redeems His people, the One who remains supremely faithful to you in all things. This trust, this faith, God will stir in your hearts, even as He stirred it in the heart of his servant Zechariah.  And you will ultimately find rest for your soul in this One who visited you from on high, who has loved you with an everlasting love, and who has guided your feet into the way of peace. 


Indeed, listen to the Songs of Advent…


68       “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,

         For He has visited and redeemed His people,

69       And has raised up a horn of salvation for us

         In the house of His servant David…


In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.


+ Soli Deo Gloria +