Frequently I look out the window to gray skies and miles of a white landscape. It is January. For those of us who live in the northern hemisphere, it can be one of the most difficult months of the year to slog through. These are the deep, dark days of winter when time slows, isolating one to the indoors and electric lights. The flurry and excitement of the holidays quickly fades into the background as the rituals of daily life take over once again. I certainly struggle with January. I want to hang onto the anticipation of Advent and its joyous fulfillment with the celebration of Christ’s birth on Christmas day.
These are the days I read anew the Christmas narratives. Today I turn to the gospel of Luke and find myself riveted to the infancy narratives in the first chapter. I have an affinity for Zechariah’s hymn, found in Luke 1:67-79, because he proclaims his praise once his voice is restored to him after his moment of doubt.
Two years ago in January, I was driving down a snowy country road, thinking and talking with God. I was thinking about how much I wanted to be a grandmother. I can honestly say that I have always looked forward to the day that I would be a grandmother. When I was growing up, my maternal grandparents were a big part of my life, and they always loved on me as only grandparents can do. I wanted to be that kind of a grandparent: one that connects as a playmate as well as a mentor. I have four grown children now, and as they each went on to marry and begin their own families, I often wondered about and wished for that time when I would have my own grandchildren (it would be a lie if I told you I never bothered my children and their spouses about my wishes, but I can say that I have tried to keep it to a minimum).
This particular January drive two years ago found me once again thinking about my married children and wishing I also had grandchildren. As I talked with God, I decided that I just wasn’t going to get to be that grandparent. I told God I just didn’t think it was going to happen and that I was going to have to be all right with that idea. It was an audacious moment lacking in trust similar to when Zechariah distrusted the news the angel brought to him about the birth of his son.
Later that same evening, I was having dinner at a local restaurant with my husband. It’s a quiet, little restaurant that we would eat at on Thursday evenings. As we sat there conversing and eating, my daughter and her husband suddenly showed up and sat with us. We noticed something was amiss with them, so we ordered for them and then asked them what was going on. They knowingly looked at each other, and then my daughter just smiled at me, and slowly proceeded to announce that we were going to be grandparents.
Joy, pure joy, is what filled that little restaurant at that very moment. Just as Zechariah burst forth in his hymn of praise and prophesy, I, too, blazed in exultation as I rejoiced in our news and announced it to anyone that would listen. On that cold, dark night the sun was glowing in my heart. Remembering that day, and that moment, I read anew Zechariah’s words, “because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven” (Luke 1:78). I can only begin to understand the depth of the joy that Zechariah foretold of the incarnate Word entering our world “to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:79).
Yes, it is January and we have once again left behind the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. Even so, let us continue to bask in the warmth of the pure joy of knowing that God has “visited and redeemed his people” in the person of Jesus Christ, the Rising Sun, on our dark, cold world. May we leave behind doubt and be guided by the brightness of His light to be instruments of His peace and faithfulness.