On this day in 2018, the writer C.J. English published the bestselling book ‘Rescue Matters’. It charts the astonishing story of Keith Benning, who, using his own garage to house those rescued and with just a small team of volunteers, over four years rescued 4,000 dogs from terrible situations: unwanted, starving, mistreated. As the subtitle summarises: ‘An incredible true story of rescue and redemption.’
Today’s passage looks forward to another incredible true story of rescue and redemption – only this time, it’s our own. If Mary’s song describes the Great Reversal, Zechariah’s could be called The Great Rescue.
Rescue images are studded through the text of Zechariah’s song, but the literal and metaphorical centre is v74, which uses the word directly. And it promises a rescue in three dimensions:
From our enemies – for the Israelites of the time, that would mean the Romans and other nations around them, but for us today we might cast the net wider towards everything that stops us from enjoying the relationship with God that we were designed to have. It could be summarised as sin and death – our ultimate enemies – but might be anything that has a poisonous effect on our spiritual lives. God’s purpose is that we should be free, and the coming Messiah will rescue us from these enemies.
From fear – since time immemorial, humans have feared God. And there is something wise about that: God is God and we are not. But we were made for more than fear – we were made for love. God wants us to love him as he loves us – and, as St John says later, there is no fear in love.
For righteousness – it’s not just what we’re rescued from, it’s what we’re rescued for. The life we were made to have, living God’s way. To be holy is to be set apart, called to something better. Like Keith Benning’s dogs it’s not enough just to save us from death, but to lead us into life, to a true home, to wellbeing and wholeness.
This is what the Messiah comes to do! It is a story of redemption (v68), salvation (v71), mercy (v72), faithfulness (v72-73), wisdom (v77), light and peace (v79).
This is our story. The new baby John would grow up to declare it. And, thanks be to God, we get to live it. The great rescue is a story that hasn’t finished yet. Let’s pray that, this Christmas, others may find the joy of knowing and receiving this Great Rescue.