Counting the Days: December 24, 2023
Kelli W. Taylor, OSL, M.Div.
Vice President for Mission Integration and Student Well-being
Zechariah had been waiting a long time for the opportunity to claim God’s promise, to proclaim God’s goodness, to exclaim God’s future—to sing, to break the silence. Now, that opportunity had come. Some equate opportunity with chance, a gamble, happenstance, or mere coincidence. This approach misses the true meaning of the word opportunity. The word derives from a 15thc. Latin phrase, ob portum veniens, which means “coming toward a port.” Ob portum veniens was once a mariner’s term used by sailors to indicate that the wind direction had changed, now blowing toward (or against) the port. That winds would change was certain, so the sailor would position his vessel out in the sea and wait. If the sailor was ready, prepared, constantly aware of his surroundings, and operating with skills of navigation, forecasting, vision, communication, and leadership, he would recognize the ob portum veniens approaching, anticipate the moment, be proactive and use the wind to guide the ship safely to port.
This pericope from Luke’s gospel is known in church’s history as the Benedictus, so named because of the beginning words of the passage. The Benedictus is an example of ob portum veniens. The winds were changing. Zechariah’s opportunity was coming. On Christmas Eve, the air seems different, we move differently. This night is crammed with ob portum veniens, pregnant with opportunity to see and believe God’ goodness, to proclaim God’s promise, and to embrace God’s future. God is faithful.
Who among us does not need to be reminded that God is with us when sit on dark waters waiting to make our way home? Zechariah was prophesying to his people then, and still sings to us now. For unto us a child is born. What ob portum veniens, what opportunities, has God given us to proclaim God’s promise fulfilled? In the face of hatred and bloodshed, fear is so tempting. So is resignation. We think there is nothing we can do to heal the brokenness around us, and we are silent and inactive. Zechariah’s story reminds us that we are meant for more than our fear. Hear good news: God in Jesus has given us opportunity to speak, our loosened tongues employ. May we always speak good news and peace. The Song is not yet over. It is now ours to sing. Ready your vessels. Opportunity awaits.