Israel had a long wait before any novelties in salvation history occurred. After the last prophets in the Old Testament spoke it was a few centuries before the angel Gabriel was sent to John the Baptist’s father in order to announce that John would be the prophet coming just before the Messiah. Zechariah was an observant Jew, following the Law and fulfilling his duties faithfully, but after hoping for a child old age probably convinced him nothing new was forthcoming. His faith was still there, but it was tired. So when the angel Gabriel came and announced not only that he was to have a son, but that his son would be the prophet who’d immediately precede Messiah he responded with a tired and insufficient faith: he asked how an old man could beget a son.
Gabriel’s reaction was almost, “what, an angel of God appearing to you is not enough of a sign?” Zechariah needed “quiet time” to process everything that was happening and to see that what the angel announced would come to pass. Zechariah could represent all of salvation history before that first Advent, religious, waiting, but tired. Every Advent can present that same danger, which is why we need to impose “quiet time” on ourselves to process the incredible mysteries of God that are unfolding in these days: that the Word should become baby and dwell among us, that God would want to live a human life to show his love and solidarity with us, and lay down his life for us.
A lifetime of quiet is not enough to fully fathom that mystery, but if we don’t try then, like Zechariah, we’ll be silent spectators to the incredible things God has planned. Let’s live these last few days of Advent in silent wonder and openness to whatever God wants to announce to us this Christmas season.
Readings: Judges 13:2–7, 24–25a; Psalm 71:3–4a, 5–6ab, 16–17; Luke 1:5–25.