Arise, arise! Wake from your slumber, Jerusalem; shake the chain from your neck, captive daughter Zion. (Antiphon, Canticle of Zechariah)
As we begin to draw closer to Christmas, this morning’s antiphon for the Benedictus (Canticle of Zechariah) sounds an alarm. It is time to arise and wake from our slumber. The night is far spent. The dawn of a new creation is about to arrive. As we wait upon the Lord, it is easy to grow weary and lose heart. We are tempted to relax our attentiveness and to cease keeping watch for the enemy who “is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (Reading, Night Prayer).
But the righteous shoot of David is coming and will not delay. He is coming to shake the heavy chain of sin from our neck and set us free. He is coming to bring us salvation, to seek out the lost, bring back the strayed, bind up the injured, and heal the sick (Reading, Midafternoon Prayer). And so we cry out, “Come and set us free, Lord God of power and might” (Responsory, Evening Prayer)!
No matter how dark the days seem to appear to the eyes of the flesh, no matter how long the wait seems to be, we put our trust in God who has promised to “strengthen us to the end, so that we will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Reading, Evening Prayer). That day is coming when “The Lord of Hosts will come down upon Mount Zion” and a song of profound holiness will fill our hearts with unspeakable joy (Responsory, Office of Reading). But today we must take care to be docile to God’s will and humble, for “God protects and frees a humble man; he loves and consoles a humble man; he favors a humble man; he showers him with graces; then, after his suffering, God raises him up to glory” (Imitation of Christ, Office of Readings).
Let us then arise! Let us shake the chain of sin and pride from our necks and be humble before the Lord. Let us be vigilant, keeping watch for the father of lies who seeks to steal and destroy. We worship a God who is good and benevolent to His children. He has not promised us a life of ease or comfort. But He has promised to “free us from sin and renew his life within us” so that we might be saved and reign with Him in glory forever. Christmas will soon come like a light piercing the dark night. May we stand ready to welcome this light with profound hope and joy!