“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David” (Luke 1:68–69, ESV).

When you think of “baby,” a synonym or an adjective that accompanies it is rarely, if ever, “powerful!” Yet, that is precisely what Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, uses to describe Jesus who would be born in three months.

The exact Greek words he uses are normally translated “horn of salvation.” The term “horn,” referring to the pointed projection on the head that an animal uses to attack and defend, is used as a figure of speech in the Old Testament to signify power and authority (1 Samuel 2:10; 1 Chronicles 25:5; Psalms 75:4–5; 92:10 etc.). This power would be used to bring salvation. It is an unusual expression to use of a baby soon to be born to Mary and Joseph, but it is an absolutely true one since the coming Messiah would be powerful in word and in deed.

In 2 Samuel 22:3, David describes God Himself as his rock, his shield and “the horn of my salvation” (see also Psalms 18:2). Yet Jesus could be accurately described as “the horn of salvation” since He would be a man exhibiting the power of God, being in reality divine—the God-Man.

However, in the New Testament there is just a single occurrence of this term. It is found as part of the “Christmas story” when Zachariah, before he speaks of his own son, describes the Messiah for whom his son will be the forerunner.

Apparently, as the old priest looked at his newborn son, John (who would one day go preaching and baptizing, preparing the way for the Messiah), he saw by faith the Messiah who would come and so declared Him to be the “Powerful One.” He would be powerful in His healing; He would be powerful in His forgiveness; He would be powerful in delivering and defending His own from the power of evil.

So this Christmas, as you think of the sweet, helpless-looking babe in the manger, remember too that this babe is the Powerful Savior who can save, protect, and defend those who are His own.