“How can I be sure [of this birth]?
I am old & my wife is on in years.”
“I am Gabriel, I stand in the presence of God…
to tell you Good News…
you will be silent until this happens,
because you did not believe…”
‘His name shall be John.’
[After Elizabeth conceives]
Immediately, his [Zechariah’s] mouth was open…
He began praising God.”
Prophets had been silent for 400 years, when Gabriel announces to Zechariah and Elizabeth they will bear a child, John, who will speak for God; he will later be known as John the Baptist. Zechariah, being on in years, doubts the message Gabriel brings; the news is too fantastic! Due to his disbelief, Gabriel strikes Zechariah mute. As a priest, he can no longer further the truth of God, so Zechariah is to be silent.
Even speechless, Zechariah is understood as one who has seen a great vision in the sanctuary. Zechariah tries to communicate with people by using sign language, an awkward attempt at Charades, but to no avail; he no longer speaks for God.
When Elizabeth gives birth, her neighbors and friends realize that God has been merciful – – they rejoice with Elizabeth! Eight days later, when it is time to name the child, Elizabeth selects “John”. This seems odd, as no one in either family line has ever had that particular name. When these neighbors and friends approach Zechariah, who is still speechless, he writes out, “His name is John”. Everyone is amazed! Zechariah, in his silence, fulfills God’s purposes. At that moment, Zechariah regains his speech – – he praises God! His priestly function as well as his faith has been restored!
This pre-story to the Christmas story speaks an eternal truth. When aligned with God’s purposes, we are restored to true life. When we are not, our life is silent. Many of us experience the vibrancy of our early faith, only to have it fade over the years and become routine.
Each year, we return to witness the Christmas Pageant or Christmas Eve services. We hope we may again claim our childhood and experience vibrant faith. In the melody of carols, in the glow of candles, in the stillness of a manger, in the midst of shared prayer, we look to be restored to our God-given purpose … we look to praise God … we look for Christmas!
Wishing you and yours the Revitalization of Christmas,