A Moment of Silence

In silence. A difficult moment. Unable to say a word.

We were built for communion. We were built for conversation. Words speak volumes when they come from a genuine heart. Imagine though, for a second, being silenced-lips part but no speech or sound comes through; there’s so much to say, but the words have been stilled, suppressed-communication taken away for a brief time.

In the book of Luke, chapter 1, this is the exact experience Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, had. While not the most important part of the Christmas story we read each year, the small details abound with great lessons for Christians today.

A little bit of background into the silencing of Zechariah:

Starting in Luke 1:5, we begin to read about the birth of John the Baptist. His parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, had been barren for quite some time and had consistently been praying for the blessing of a child to be born into their family. After many years of seemingly unanswered prayers, they became discouraged and their faith faltered just a bit. As expected, Zechariah was in the temple performing his priestly duties when the unexpected happened.

Luke 1:13-15(a): “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. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord.”

An angel of God had visited Zechariah in the temple and had promised him the one thing he and Elizabeth had been praying for for years! What great news the angel brought! Surely, this was a complete shock to Zechariah for many reasons. He and Elizabeth had been praying for so long and had been met with silence for so long that they had given up; they had lost all hope for a child. And, even though a promise from God had directly been given to him by the angel, discouragement and doubt got the best of him, so he questioned the sincerity of the given promise:

vs. 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.”

Zechariah had gone into the temple, closed his eyes in prayer, and had opened them to find an angel sitting directly in front of him-the very angel who promised him a child, a child that would be blessed and pave the way for the coming of Jesus! A perfect invitation to go out and shout praises to a faithful and loving God! But, he couldn’t. He questioned, and doubted; therefore, he couldn’t speak. His words had been taken from him, so he was unable to tell anyone what he had seen and heard; words brimming to the surface but unable to spill out into the world. He was stuck in silence-unable to praise, shout, and spread such wonderful news.

Yet, there is no room for judgement on our parts. Yes, Zechariah doubted and lacked faith when there was much to be faithful about, but many of us too have experienced similar thoughts and feelings. Yes, Zechariah questioned God’s faithfulness, but how many of us have doubted the promises God has given to us? Many of us too have prayed fervently for something or someone only to be met with what felt like silence from God which caused our faith to waver. We are are emotional and sin-filled creatures, but our God is steady and the One who stays true to our promises. He is the One who gives hope in darkness and does not allow the story to end in silence.

Nearing the end of Luke chapter 1, we see God’s promise to Zechariah fulfilled:

vs. 57-58: “Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.”

John the Baptist was born, and Zechariah, staying true to naming the child “John”, was given the ability to speak again.

vs. 64: “And immediately his mouth was opened, and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God.”

It’s important to note that given words again equated to songs of immediate praise and worship for Zechariah. God’s promise had been fulfilled, faith had been totally restored, and praise and glory continue from the mouth of Zechariah until the end of chapter 1. He blesses God for the coming of Jesus. He blesses God for the Light of the World coming down to save all sinners. He blesses God for remembering His promises and in His holiness and righteousness, He fulfills those promises. Zechariah praises with every word and breath he has been given.

In the middle of the most amazing story ever told, the story of Jesus’ birth, is a sweet reminder to continue to have faith, and praise God for who He is. He has done great and wonderful things in our lives. Let us not forget to spread the good news of Jesus to all we meet as long as we have the ability to speak and communicate the true and loving words of the Gospel so graciously given to us by God.

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