⁵ In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. ⁶ And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. ⁷ But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
⁸ Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, ⁹ according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. ¹⁰ And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. ¹¹ And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. ¹² And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. ¹³ But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. ¹⁴ And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, ¹⁵ for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. ¹⁶ And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, ¹⁷ and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
¹⁸ And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” ¹⁹ And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. ²⁰ And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”
It’s been 400 years since Israel has heard from Yahweh. They have hung on to the promise that the day of the Lord is coming. They believe that there will be a Messiah and one who precedes him to prepare the way.
This is where we find Zechariah. He is faithfully tending to his duties in worship at the Temple when he encounters an angel, who brings the good news that the old Zechariah and his barren wife shall finally have a son. The angel tells Zechariah that his son’s name is to be John, and that John will fulfill God’s promise!
You would think that Zechariah would respond with joy and gladness at the angel’s news. But instead, he seems skeptical, almost doubtful, as he responds: “How shall I know this? I am old, and my wife is advanced in years.”
The angel informs him that because of his disbelief, he will be struck with muteness, unable to speak, to explain, or communicate what is happening until his son arrives.
So, Zechariah is left to wait—for nine months. He is left to ponder. All he can do is wait with intense hope and anticipation—anticipation that grows in strength all the way up to the day that his son arrives.
Zechariah gets to speak again when his son is born. And the words that he speaks are of even better news to come.
Zechariah’s waiting reminds us of Israel’s waiting. But unlike his growing anticipation, Israel’s doubt festered over a long period of time. There should have been an anticipation while waiting on God to act. But because of their disbelief, they are left to wait a bit longer, and a bit longer…until the right time for God to enter back into their story.
Like Zechariah, Israel doubted. But God’s Word was able to fill them with hope and salvation.
This Advent, may we find hope and encouragement. And may we also find words to proclaim that God has broken the silence and has given us his Word in Christ.
Our Horn of Salvation, you are the Alpha and Omega, the first and last Word.
We praise you for your sovereignty: your holiness is not dependent upon our belief nor marred by our doubt.
We confess that our limited vantage point tends to make us fuss and fidget.
We want to know the whole plan.
We crave instant gratification.
We give in to the temptation to distrust.
We even try to supply our own answers while we’re waiting on yours.
Forgive us, O Lord, for our disobedient and hurried impatience. Take away the chaos and white noise of life that distracts us from you. Pry our doubt from our white-knuckled grasp and replace it with a properly ordered longing for your presence and coming.
Quiet us when our tongues do not honor you.
Quiet us to value your words above our own.
Quiet us so that we may hear your creation all around us whisper of your radiance.
Remind us that the truth of your words, work, and promises are no less true in the stillness.
Let us embrace moments of quiet to meditate on the hope we are offered by you alone.
Teach us to lean into seasons of listening with joy and gladness.
We cry out:
Create in us a thirst for your peace.
Let your serenity soothe us.
And when it is our turn to speak, may only words of praise, adoration, and celebration flow from our lips. Our own Benedictus. Marry the seasons of stillness with the seasons of celebration, readying our hearts to bask in your presence for eternity.
Christmas Eve at Coram Deo
You are invited to join us on Christmas Eve, December 24, at 4, 5, or 6 pm for one of our candlelight services. Together, we will sing Christmas carols, hear the Christmas story proclaimed from God's Word, and, of course, light candles to remind each other of God's light shining into the darkness through the arrival of His son, Jesus Christ. Children are invited to join their parents for these family-friendly services and no child care will be provided. We hope to see you there!