As we get comfy on our Christmas couch, let's enjoy one of my favorite verses for this time of the year: Galatians 4: 4-7,
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
I love reading about how we are adopted into God’s family and as such, we are His heirs. But I also love considering verse 4…”when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son…” In that verse advent is contained. These words reflect the fact that there was a time that was NOT full. There was a time that was not appropriate, not right. There was a time of wondering where God was. There was a time of silence. There was a time of waiting.
After Prophet Malachi received God’s last revelation to him, he became the last prophet of the Old Testament. Malachi’s statements in chapter 4, warning the Israelites that “surely the day is coming…” the day of judgement and renewal, concluded God’s Word at the time. And the only thing the Jews heard from God during the next 400 years was His silence. There would be no new, “hear, you Israel.” There would be nothing more revealed…until the Word became flesh. God was silent until the time became full again on that silent night, in that little town of Bethlehem.
That night, the Son was given unto us, for the salvation of the world. The Messiah who was long expected finally arrived wrapped in swaddling clothes. He came as a baby, but He grew up to be God’s perfect Lamb and True High Priest, and with His resurrection, His Spirit came to dwell among us to change our relationship with God so He could become our Abba…Daddy.
But before all that came to be, there was silence. God’s deafening silence left the people of Israel lost and confused. This makes me think of my own life. How do I deal with silence? How do I deal with those periods of time when God seems to be distant and I am left down here to wait?
I can tell you, I don’t deal with any of that very well at all…
Silence scares me. It makes me uncomfortable, maybe because it makes me feel inadequate. As a teacher, I have heard about the power of silence in the classroom. I have heard experienced teachers talking about how much of an impact a teacher’s silence has in students. I have been encouraged to implement it as a powerful tool…but I keep resisting. Lately, however, I have, though timidly, begun to intently apply drops of silence here and there in my lessons especially in my more advanced courses…and I have to say, the results are telling.
I have chosen to do this in my advanced courses because I think they can handle uncertainty better. So rather than spoon-feeding them answers, I throw in a subject, a questions, and then I pause…I walk away a bit, and I silently look at them for what seems like a long time. What I see could be a reflection of my own experience dealing with those moments when God is silent in my life. My students look at me, expectantly. At the beginning, I can see on their faces that they are not really thinking, but rather they are just passively waiting for me to formulate my answer. Then, when time lapses and I say nothing, they begin to get a bit restless in their sits. Their gazes shift from me to an unknown void inside their minds. Of course, some just don’t care. But those who are intrigued start to get nervous. They begin to think. It is as if a different level of communication emerges in a more abstract dimension, transported not by sound-waves but by something deeper, something not of the physical realm.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 1 Corinthians 13: 11
Like the Master Teacher He Is, Our Holy Father knows when to apply silence in our lives. He knows how to take the conversation to another level, to a spiritual level. He knows when we are “advanced” enough to be able to, with His help and guidance, handle His silence and the wait that ensues.
As a people, Christians, like the Old Testament Israelites, wait for the Lord. But unlike the Old Testament Israelites, we don’t need to become lost and confused. We know that even when He is silent, He still speaks.
As we prepare to celebrate, the advent of the living God, The Emanuel, the God among us, let’s remember that, though He might be silent in the traditional sense of the concept, He still speaks through the completeness of His Word and through the voice and actions of His beloved as they are enabled by the Holy Spirit, the God with us who lives in the heart of every believer.
The silence of God is, therefore, a way to hear His voice through the discernment that only His Holy Spirit can provide. May we know how to listen to His whispering as we anticipate His coming.