18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man, and my wife is old too.”
19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I serve God. I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will have to be silent. You will not be able to speak until after John is born. That’s because you did not believe my words. They will come true at the time God has chosen.”
Luke 1:18-19 (New International Readers Version)
Advent calls for silence: a silence that calls for us to step back and ponder about God and His/Her gift of the Christ. In our noisy time that calls us to believe Madison Avenue and the talking heads; God calls for us to change lanes and believe on what God has to say. And if we’re not careful, God will make us silent so we can listen to Him/Her.
Tonight’s Scripture bears witness to this. You know the backstory which led to the passage above. Now we come to a mute Zechariah-he ain’t talking jack. In fact, we see after the above passage that Zechariah had to take a crash course in sign language. This sucks-especially since Zechariah needed his voice for his office of priest; and they didn’t have texting back then. In fact, the next time Zechariah opens his mouth is after John is born. When Zechariah spoke again, he gave a song of praise to shut down any Sunday morning “praise and worship” hour.
Now when you read the whole story, you’d think that’s all there was. However, I believe there was more to it than meets the eye. I believe during those silent months, Zechariah had time to do some thinking about his relationship with God. You see, although Zechariah-along with wife-was righteous in God’s eyes, I think he might have became jaded with the noise of his situation: the piteous talk and the taunts of others. Over the years, Zechariah started to listen to all the crap about him and soon believed that his and Elisabeth’s cause was hopeless. And we know when one feels hopeless, they soon resign themselves to whatever lot they’re in.
So the silence gives Zechariah a chance to think. It was in those months Zechariah began to see his situation and how he gave up on God. Zechariah had a chance to do some soul searching without the luxury of talking to drown out his thoughts. Now Zechariah had to listen to his thoughts…his heart. Then when John was born, Zechariah realized that God is still good and does not lie. Hence his postpartum praise service.
We’re the same way today. We listen to the chatter of ourselves and others regarding our lives to the place we stop having hope for some dream deferred like Zechariah and Elizabeth. Or it can be some situation we’re involved in-directly or indirectly. We listen to this “talk” to the point we begin to believe it. Then, we believe the talk to the point we internalize it and begin to lose hope and resign ourselves to whatever is out there. Then when God reaches out to us with good news, we brush God off as if He/She was messing with us. Then God must “silence” our thoughts so that we can think about our relationship with Him/Her and see that God is good.
Advent is a time of silence. We need to tune out the Holiday chatter and think about God’s still goodness to us by sending Christ into the world. We need to stop listening to the talk of others that can cause us to lose hope. We must realize that God is good and will still make good His/Her promises. Then, like Zechariah, we too can have something to praise God about.