"Do not be afraid, Zechariah;
your prayer has been heard.
Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,
and you are to call him John."
Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Happy First Week of Advent! What is December like for you? Too often December becomes a season of hustle and bustle. Our church calendar is packed with multiple things every single weekend - Crafts, a Congregational Meeting, the Christmas Cantata, Chili Cook-off, and Caroling just to name a few. I am sure you have your own list a mile long of presents to buy, cards to write, and events to attend.
And yet in the midst of all this, the deeper story can break into our world, interrupt our plans, and remind us of what is most important. This year for Advent, we are focusing on Luke's stories of the people whose lives were interrupted by the miracle of the Messiah.
This first Sunday, we find the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth living a quiet life. They are faithful and righteous people, but they have a deep sadness - they have never been able to have children. They let go of hope long ago, and now they keep their heads down and go about their business, trying to ignore the shame the community has placed on them for being childless.
Then one day, hope crashes through their door. The angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah and announces they are to have a child - and not just any child, but the one who will prepare the way for the Messiah. How does Zechariah react to this news? With fear and doubt. He wants to be sure. He wants to fit the news into his logical, routine world. Only, this kind of news doesn't fit into a box. It blows the doors off. And the Lord determines that the best way for Zechariah to understand this news is not by more words but by silence. For the next nine months, he cannot speak. He can only listen.
In a way, Zechariah and Elizabeth represent the whole of Israel, awaiting a child who has not come, going about their business and almost missing the Good News when it does appear. In a way, Zechariah and Elizabeth also represent our world today. We go about our business (and busyness), frequently missing the Good News standing right in front of us, overlooking the hope that God offers.
Perhaps, like Zechariah, we could use some silence. We need God to speak to our fears and doubts. We need Him to remind us of the hope greater than all we can ask or imagine.
This month, my challenge for you is to practice the discipline of silence. Set a timer for even just five minutes, turn off the phone, and listen. "Be still and know that I am God." Picture yourself in the stories of Luke and listen for what the Lord has to share with you in each one. Listen for the hope, listen for the joy, listen for the One who calls you by name and says, "You are mine."
Like Zechariah and Elizabeth, may you be surprised by the hope the Lord has in store.