“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for she has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David.” – Luke 1:68-69 (NRSV)
Raising up a “mighty savior” would be a good reason to bless the Lord God of Israel, but actually, that’s not what Zechariah says has happened. Translation issues; you know how it is. What he actually says is that God has raised up a “horn of salvation.” Much more evocative. “Savior” slips right through our heads as if we know what it means (though we don’t). But a horn of salvation? Like, what could that even be?
If you assume it refers to Jesus, as many do (see “mighty savior”), then it’s pretty confusing. Is it, like, a horn on a goat’s head? Is Jesus going to butt his way through the world? Possible; Jesus wasn’t as gentle as some of us want to believe. But Jesus hasn’t been born yet, and Zechariah is talking about this horn of salvation like it’s already here.
On the other hand, Zechariah is currently holding his own son. The one who would grow up to become John the Baptist, the one who would point and announce and say, “Prepare ye the way.” Like a herald, like a trumpeter. Like the shofar that echoed out of the cloud on Mt. Sinai, that brings walls crumbling to the ground, that can be heard echoing across the hills to marshal the people, that calls them to worship and repentance.
Not the savior, but the one who gets people to pay attention long enough to notice that the savior is here.
You and I know I can’t save the world. But the horn of salvation is an instrument I’m willing to learn. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is Chaplain of the Protestant Cooperative Ministry at Cornell University. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.