The day is here! It’s Christmas Day, and we need one more block to complete our alphabet. Today, the block is Z for Zion and Zenith.
When we hear or read scripture, we often run into a reference to Zion and wonder precisely what it is about. Zion has a number of definitions. King David captured a hill from the Jebusites and on it built a city on it. That hill was named Zion. Later Zion came to represent the whole of Jerusalem and later yet, the Jewish people or their faith. Christians saw Zion as the kingdom of heaven or as the heavenly city where God dwells and where the redeemed will forever be with God. During Advent we heard “Prepare the Way, O Zion” (Hymnal 1982, 65) that uses the city image for the people of God waiting for the coming of Christ. Well, today is the day we welcome that holy child and celebrate his birth. Today Zion is a bit closer.
Zenith usually has the meaning of a celestial body immediately overhead or the highest point a heavenly body can reach in the sky. It can also mean, however, the culmination or peak of something. An artist or writer reaches the zenith of his or her career when a new work causes people to pause and wait with anticipation for a glimpse or a reading of that work. It represents the peak, the highest point, the very top of something, and for Christians, it is the second greatest celebration in the Christian year only eclipsed by the celebration of the resurrection at Easter. Still, Christmas comes at the turning of the year when the days are beginning to lengthen and the nights get shorter, the desolation of the winter countryside with bare trees and seemingly lifeless expanses of what will later be lush green fields sprinkled with flowers is still cold and drab. When you think about it, though, Christmas really is the zenith since without Christmas there could have been no Easter; without a birth there could not have been a death and resurrection.
Celebrate the day, O Zion, fling wide the gates, rejoice and be glad. Christmas is here and we have twelve whole days to celebrate it!
May you have a blessed Christmas and a new year of hope, promise and just a dash of pain and sorrow to remind you that joy comes again, even in the dead of winter or the cold of grief. But for today, celebrate with every fiber of your being. Merry Christmas!