Luke 1: 5-23
Today’s story turns out to be the most important day in both Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s lives. Zechariah was chosen by Lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
“Do not be afraid, Zechariah,” the angel appeared, and told him “for your prayer has been heard.” Which prayer was that? Well, it was not a prayer for the people on that day, but it was a prayer for a child of his own.
What is shocking for us in the passage is the reaction from Zechariah. He could have said, “Amen or Hallelujah.” However, Zachariah held back, “How will I know that this is so?” “For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”
Wherever this story is told, Zechariah’s muteness may have been treated as his punishment for doubt and disbelief. I wonder if we may see Zechariah’s silence a bit differently—not a punishment.
It seems entirely possible to me that his muteness was the angel’s gift to him—an enforced sabbatical, or a pregnant period of his own during which the seeds of hope were sown again in his doubtful soul.
Who would be today’s Zechariah and Elizabeth—those who have been suffering from being barren and those who seem cynical and doubtful about a miracle?
I invite us to think of Zechariah and Elizabeth as the twenty-first-century church and Christians. Like him, over the last decades, we all may have been considered barren as we have been experiencing an ongoing decline, even sometimes being cynical or doubtful like them about what we can do and whom we can be.
Maybe it is time for us to claim the angel’s gift of silence again—to stop talking too much, to stop trying to explain, to shut our own mouths before the mystery of God and see what the quiet has to teach us.
The good news of Advent is not simply that Christ is coming, but that his coming means we can hope, despite all that is falling apart in our lives, our communities, and the world around us.
We can be in peace, in the midst of a stormy life, and the world by holding a faith that the Christ not only is still coming but also is near us now.
God’s hope in this season of Advent promises us new life and new beginning.
Let’s keep preparing for God’s kingdom breaking forth into our world.
Let’s keep praying for the strength to do what is necessary to fill it with faithfulness as we wait for God.