Paul wrote to a very troubled congregation. No earth-shaking problems but just little
droplets of water that finally wear down the rock on which they fall. The tendency was to
defect. Apostasy, falling away, was one of the most difficult problems the early
Christians faced. When times were hard and that first century was very hard, people left
the faith in droves. "Standing firm" became almost a mantra for the apostle Paul as he
wrote to his friends in many places. Chaim Potok said one time, "I am neither an optimist
Mark Ellingsen Bonnie Bates Bob Ove Bill Thomas Frank Ramirez Ron Love
Baruch 5:1-9 For they went out from you on foot, led away by their enemies; but God will bring them back to you, carried in glory, as on a royal throne. (Baruch 5:6)
Psalm 137 gives us a heart-rending picture of the people being led away into exile on foot by their enemies (by the willows we hung up our harps -- that whole thing.). The captives no doubt suffered torment and death reminiscent of native Americans on the Trail of Tears or the American POWs in the Bataan Death March.
In our house, things change at Christmas. On Christmas Day we eat at totally different times, we snap open crackers and wear silly hats, we roar with laughter at the awful jokes inside the crackers, all members of the family meet together for one of the few times each year, and we play with puzzles.
Known among scholars as the "Benedictus," Zechariah's prophecy is a powerful and beautiful commentary on what is about to take place. The coming of the Messiah is recounted here in an incredible merger of spiritual, social, and political realities. The people will be delivered from their enemies, and they will gain knowledge of salvation. The sins of the people will be forgiven by God's tender mercies as the light of a new dawn guides "our feet into the way of peace."