Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for He has visited and redeemed His people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of His servant David.
In a black night faintly lit by the dim lamps behind her, Ivy waited patiently amidst the urgency of the bells. With people rushing around her fleeing to the safety of home, of doors and locks, basements and silence, she waited, her hand outstretched. With family calling for her to come inside, as unnatural shadows stalked the streets, she waited. “He will come,” she said, “Lucius will come.” The alarms grow louder, and the shadows in the pale lamplight move closer. At the last possible moment, a hand grasps hers, and Lucius leads her into the house.
This breath-stealing scene opens M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village. The most striking thing about the scene is not the crescendo of the music, nor the quick and thrilling glimpses in the shadows. It is the image of a girl, standing in the midst of hurry, waiting in the midst of madness. It is Ivy’s certainty that no matter where the one she was waiting for was, he would come for her, he would find her, he would rescue her. It is a certainty that in the midst of the scene seems ludicrous; yet when her empty hand is filled with his, it makes all the sense in the world.
In the sermon on Sunday we looked at Luke chapter 1, and the story of Zacharias, culminating in his prophetic song. In a passage rife with meaning, I want to draw attention to one thing. Zacharias, in his song, speaks of the Lord’s redemption as if it was already in the past. “He has visited… has redeemed… has raised…” John, the one who would prepare the way, was probably less than a month old. Jesus, the horn of salvation, was not even born and was thirty-three years away from accomplishing redemption. Israel was still under oppression, her enemies still apparently triumphant over her. Zacharias was an old man of a downtrodden people, all but forgotten in a backwater province of the empire; his declaration seems as ridiculous as Ivy standing on the porch in the midst of danger. Yet it is all the more striking because of his certainty. He was so certain that God would fulfill His promises that Zacharias spoke as if God had already accomplished them. Zacharias had good reason to believe, right? God had promised and delivered him a son, in spite of all the odds against it. God had struck him mute as a sign. In the face of these events, belief and certainty make all the sense in the world.
We feel less certain, don’t we? The world seems all too big; our enemies, with faces and without, seem all too numerous. The promises seem too ridiculous in the light of reality; hope seems ludicrous in face of the exigencies of life. We find ourselves less like Ivy and more like her family, crying to ourselves and others to save ourselves in the face of danger. We believe that God will come, that He will redeem, that He will save… but we would be ridiculous not to have a plan B. And that is why such certainty as Ivy’s and Zacharias’s surprises us.
How do we gain such confidence? How can we begin to grasp such certainty? First, we must realize that our situation is more desperate than we think. Plan B won’t work. Dan Allender writes: “If one wants redemption, it will not be in comfort, nor ease—it will be in the darkest moments of disaster. He does not offer redemption to those who are well or to those who live in light. Redemption comes when nothing else will do.” And second, we must look to what God has already done. Zacharias was able to see what God had done for him in giving him a son. His certainty was based on a grasp of God’s promise and God’s prior actions. Ours must be as well. We look to a birth, not of our son, but of God’s Son. In Jesus, as Paul says, all of God’s promises are “Yes!” In short, Christmas is one of the ways we hold on to certainty in the face of doubt. In this Advent season, let us sing with Zacharias: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people!”