Read 1:5-23 paying attention to any thoughts and feelings you might have as you consider Zechariah's interaction with Gabriel.
I have always read the story of the silencing of Zechariah with a narrator’s voice in my head sounding strong, disapproving overtones behind Gabriel’s words. Zachariah blew it, didn’t he? Instead of jumping up and down with joy over Gabriel’s good news, he seemed to meet it with skepticism and questions. So…he was punished for his lack of belief. Right?
Perhaps this is the case but I’m wondering if there’s something even more to hear in this story. Is it possible that after years of hoping and waiting, perhaps even praying, Zechariah’s weather-worn heart is weary? Could it be that the persistent “no's” Zechariah has heard throughout the years have piled up in his heart, barricading any thought of a different reality? Maybe it is just that Zechariah isn’t quite ready for joy. His legs are too tired to jump up and down, his arms hang too heavy to throw wide open in celebration.
And is it at all possible that, instead of God being displeased with this state of his heart, He looks with compassion upon Zechariah, His friend who has so faithfully met with Him within the holiest spaces of relational interaction in that day? Zechariah has logged hours and hours, day after day with Him, offering sacrifices on his fellow Israelites behalf. Carrying the burdens of his people to God. Zechariah knows his God. And yet, perhaps he does not know his own heart. Perhaps in all the doing, he has not stopped to notice what is there.
Could it be that God, heart bursting with tender love, wants to bring Zechariah into a position of belief and knows just what is needed to get him there? The space to slow. To quiet. To sit with self so that whatever is there might rise to the surface.
It is in the identification of what is present that opportunity rises for that very thing to be touched by God.
And so the silencing, the taking away, the subtraction of spoken words, create an environment within which to listen.
What is there, Zechariah? What is there? As you serve out the rest of your temple term in silence, are you listening? As you carry remnant ashes of brokenness from the altar of sacrifice to place upon the incense altar, are you looking?
Read Luke 1:67-79 listening for the tone of Zechariah's heart after his silence is broken.
Sitting with self:
Perhaps you don’t feel quite ready to enter into the joy of the Christmas season this year. Find a moment today to limit yourself to a quiet space, free from distractions and noise. Ask the Holy Spirit to help identify what you’re carrying in your heart right now. What emotions are you bringing into the holidays as you reflect on your experiences in past months? How have persistent "no's" made you weary or impacted what you believe? What you are longing for? What might you find too challenging to hope for?
Sitting with God:
Pause to look at the picture of the planks of wood, touched by the fire, smoke rising toward heaven.
Tender, loving Father, Your heart is filled with compassion as You see what is here in my heart. Like Zechariah, I carry remnant ashes of brokenness to Your altar of prayer. I bring disappointments, loss, sadness, loneliness, and ___(fill in your own words)___. Failed attempts to love others well and more, those instances when I didn’t even try! With palms up, I offer you all that is here and ask You to meet it as only You can. I know You touch gently and Your healing power brings freedom to receive and believe. Help me to remember and live from Your grace this season. Amen.
Sitting with Others:
Reflect on what others you know might be bringing into this holiday season. How will you be present with them? What might you need to take away or limit in order to create the space for you to really listen to what is there in their hearts?