God Breaks the Silence

Jesus in the manger

God Breaks the Silence

“Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more …”

Dr. Seuss

How Long?

“How long?” was the question resounding in the hearts of God’s people.

How long until God’ promised deliver would arrive on the scene and rescue them from their deep national and spiritual disconnection? I’m sure they fantasized about a burly sword-carrying ruler who would swagger in and save the day with one swing of his gleaming blade. They strained for evidence of His advent, pregnant with anticipation — but all they encountered was dead air.

The word advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means coming. And, though they could not see it, God was busy at work preparing the perfect setting for the advent of His Promised One — in the most unexpected way.

John the Baptist Leads the Way

The final words of the Old Testament foretold of one who would come and lead the way for this long-awaited Messiah.

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.” (Malachi 4:5)

And, 400 hundred years after this declaration, God breaks the silence — dispatching His angel to break the news to Zechariah the priest. Although he and his wife were advanced in years and unable to have children, they would bear a son, a fulfillment of both Malachi’s prophecy and their long whispered prayers.

It wasn’t at all what Zechariah was expecting that day. Chosen by lot to be the one to burn the incense in the temple that day, he entered as people gathered outside to worship and to pray.

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:11-25

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense:12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “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. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

Reflection:

Two things stood in the way of fulfilling Malachi’s prophecy: Elizabeth’s barrenness and the couple’s advanced years — a seemingly impossible situation. But God has always been in the business of creating something from nothing and making the impossible not only probable but promise kept. He would fill Elizabeth’s empty womb with blessing, removing a lifetime of cultural shame in the process.

Tongue-tied by his unbelief, Zechariah would silently watch as his wife’s belly exploded with life, awaiting the day his son would enter the world. On that day God would break Zechariah’s silence too, journeying one step closer to the Messiah’s entry into humanity.

Over the coming weeks, we will listen in as Mary, Zechariah, and Simeon respond in song to this good news. And we, too, will reflect on our deep longings and hopes as we wait for His final arrival — bringing with Him the fullness of redemption and restoration for all creation.

Prayer: A Christmas Prayer by Robert Louis Stevenson

Loving Father,

Help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and worship of the wise men.

Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting. Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.

May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children, and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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