As we begin the Advent-Christmas seasons, I am once again thankful for the dedication of Taylor Hightower and our choir. I especially appreciate the time they invest in preparation for the Advent-Christmas seasons. Back in October, when pumpkins were arriving on UBC’s front lawn, Taylor presented me with a copy of an anthem the choir was working on for Advent worship. In conversation with Taylor and Kat, the anthem became an important part of worship plans for this Advent season.

The anthem, “Blessed is the Lord” or “Benedictus,” finds its inspiration in the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth as recorded in the first chapter of Luke. The anthem’s title specifically references the prayer of Zechariah found in Luke 1:68-79. In Christian tradition, the prayer is known both as the Song (or Canticle) of Zechariah and the Benedictus (the first word of the prayer in its Latin transla- tion). Those familiar with traditional prayer books will recognize the Benedictus as one of the daily morning prayers.

I have enjoyed spending the last several weeks studying the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth and look forward to sharing their stories through Scripture readings and sermons. Luke masterfully weaves together their story with the story of Mary and the birth of Jesus. In many ways, Elizabeth and Zechariah are the Advent story—a couple living with anticipation of the coming promises of God.

Each Sunday of Advent, as we gather around the Advent Wreath, we will pray Zechariah’s Prayer, the Benedictus. I invite you to begin praying now:

Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who shepherds the people and sets them free.

God raises from David’s house a child with power to save. Through the holy prophets God promised in ages past to save us from enemy hands, from the grip of all who hate us.

The Lord favored our ancestors recalling the sacred covenant, the pledge of our ancestor Abraham, to free us from our enemies, so we might worship without fear and be holy and just all our days.

And you, child, will be called Prophet of the Most High, for you will come to prepare a pathway for the Lord by teaching the people salvation through forgiveness of sin.

Out of God’s deepest mercy a dawn will come from on high, light for those shadowed by death, a guide for our feet on the way to peace.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come!