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great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her. And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. And they said unto her, there is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed; and he spake, and praised God. And fear came on, all that dwelt round about them; and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judea. And all that heard them, laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be? And the hand of the Lord was with him. And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he hath visited and redeemed his people; and hath raised up a horn of salvation for us, in the house of his servant David; (as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began;) that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant, the oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all our days. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest; for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give
knowledge of salvation unto his people, by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God, whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.-And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts, till the day of his showing unto Israel.
What holy gratitude does Zacharias express, in his thanksgiving at the close of this chapter. The light from heaven which had long been veiled, was now about to burst forth again; and the venerable man knew, that the child of his old age was to be the favoured medium of the divine communications. What joy must have swelled the father's heart, as he thought of the future holiness and eminence of the infant before him. Can we not imagine him, with the fire of inspiration, and the smile of paternal love, together lighting up his venerable features, as he pronounces the words, "And thou, child, shalt be called the Prophet of the Highest, for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways?" There is not higher earthly njoyment than a good parent derives from the virtue of his child. What an incitement does this afford to a grateful son, to render his growing virtues a crown of joy to the grey hairs of those who gave him life!
But the joy of Zacharias was not for himself alone. "The day-spring from on high" had dawned. Its rays preceded a more glorious light, "the Sun of Righteousness," and Christians now, rejoicing in its full radiance, may well praise the Father of lights, from whom cometh every good, and every perfect gift.
"THE DAY-SPRING FROM ON HIGH."
Toiling through the livelong night,
Thus, when fraud and rapine threw
Broke the dawn of Judah's star.
Tears of joy and gratitude
Hailed the Baptist's natal morn,
Born to go before the face
Of Judea's Saviour king;
To the mourning land to bring.
Thus began the song of praise
For the day-spring's earliest ray.
BIRTH OF JESUS.
LUKE II. 1.
AND it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made, when
Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, (because he was of the house and lineage of David,) to be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife. And she brought forth her first born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people; for unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace; good will towards men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it, wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these
things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
The records of nations cannot furnish a parallel in importance to the event here recorded. Many a Pharisee, many a man of eminence, among the crowd who now filled Bethlehem, passed thoughtlessly by the humble resting place, which yielded its poor accommodations to Mary and her infant. In after days too, many a ruler of the people would have felt himself dishonoured by a comparison with Jesus. But what is earthly power or wealth, in the sight of God? The multitude who then thronged Bethlehem have passed away, and their names have no longer an existence in the memory of man; nor would a vestige remain to prove that they had once assembled, but for the connexion of the incident with the birth of that child. And of those crowds who turned superciliously away from the instructions of Jesus, the remembrance has passed from the earth. Their very denominations of Pharisee and Sadducee, are famous only from their incidental occurrence in the history of the man of Nazareth. Oh Thou who seest not as man seeth, teach us to use candor and deliberation, when we judge from outward appearances! Teach us cheerfully to dispense, if need be, with the luxuries of life, and never to pride ourselves on their possession; remembering that Jesus, our holy Master, was born in the humble manger of an inn; remembering that he, whose name Thou hast exalted above every name, had scarcely, even in the hour of tenderest infancy, "where to lay his head!"