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.” Luke 1:11-18
Even though Zechariah was a faithful man who remained in prayer over the years as he waited for God to give him and Elizabeth a child; I’m sure the long wait was hard…so much so, that hope turned into doubt. That’s why, when the moment came and the angel announced that God had, indeed, remembered…Zechariah questioned it.
Doubt happens. It happens to the best of us…it happens to the most faithful and righteous…
It certainly happens to me, more often that I’d like to…but the Holy Spirit is able to turn each period of doubt into a season of discovery.
I remember how I too went through a time when I had lost almost all hope to ever having a child. I remember been told of the impossibility of ever conceiving “naturally.” And I remember how I sank into what felt like a bottomless pit…
Though not nearly as strong, committed and faithful as Zechariah, I did pray constantly. And I also went through a period of silence as well. It was not a radical silence, like Zechariah’s…it was more like I shut myself down for a while. I shut myself down from all the maternity talk that went on around me. I became silent to my surroundings and rejected anything that had to do with women getting pregnant and babies being born. And in my silence I harbored resentment against life and against God.
The Holy Spirit, however, turned that resentment into an opportunity to discover my deep longing for motherhood and to prepare me for the road ahead. I needed to be sure that I really wanted to be a Mom. I see now how My Loving Father in Heaven didn’t just want me to jump into parenthood with a lukewarm heart. He needed to make me all hot for the task…otherwise, I would not survive J
I can look back at those years now and appreciate the struggle, the wait and the silence. At the time, however, it was hard to bear.
After the encounter with the messenger of God, Zechariah entered into a period of silence. I don’t really think it was punishment. I think God assigned silence to Zechariah as an opportunity to reflect and contemplate. I see it as a time to go back and revisit the faithfulness of God in his life. I believe this time of silence was a sort of gestational period that would bring about the re-birth of his faith.
Like with Zechariah, sometimes our Heavenly Father puts us in a temporary place of silence so all the noises from our worldly existence can be hushed and the sensory overload can be dimmed. I believe He does that so we can focus on Him and discern the re-direction of our path.
As we sit and wait on our Christmas Couch, let’s not be afraid of the silence that often comes with waiting. Instead, let’s use it to seek Him more and to hear His voice.