It seems that this time of year our lives get filled with lots and lots of noise: TV specials, parties, and busyness. But the very first Christmas present was a kind of gift of silence. This Sunday, James and I want to tell you part of the Christmas story that centers around a man named Zechariah the priest and his experience with silence.
One day, he was in the temple serving, and an angel named Gabriel showed up and said that Zechariah and his old wife Elizabeth would have a son, and they were supposed to name him John. He would become John the Baptist, and he would help prepare Israel for what God was about to do through Jesus, through the coming of a Messiah. Zechariah said to the angel, “No, it’s not possible. It couldn’t happen. God could not do this. I’m too old. Elizabeth my wife is too old. Angel, you have the wrong guy.”
But the angel says to Zechariah, “Actually, it is possible. I’m an angel. I stand in the presence of God. My name is Gabriel. I was sent to tell you this good news myself. Zechariah, why should you be so quick to say what God cannot do and what God can do? Zechariah, why would you be so quick to say what you do believe and what you don’t believe? Zechariah, you need a button for your mouth. Now you will be silent and not be able to speak until the day this happens because you did not believe my words, which will come true at the appointed time.”
God is going to be present to Zechariah in silence in a way God could not break through to Zechariah in words. This is the strange gift of silence. There is something about silence that is really important to your spiritual development. Silence involves two aspects: having nothing to hear, no noise around you, and nothing to say, not speaking. This Sunday we are going to look at how you can practice silence, this advent by entering into Zechariah’s experience.