Old Zechariah hit the jackpot in today’s Gospel reading (Luke 1:5-25). He won the lottery. He got a once in a lifetime opportunity to enter the Holy of Holies where God is so real you can touch, feel, and taste him. He gets the privilege to celebrate the high priestly function.
There, while burning incense to kill the smell of sin, Old Zechariah slipped in another prayer—a prayer of the heart, a haunting question of a lifetime. He’d prayed it thousands of times before. It was the prayer of every Jewish man. It was a question really. “Why, O God, have Elizabeth and I remained childless?” That’s when it happened. Zechariah got a nine-month sentence to silence.
Sometimes we are stunned to silence. Zechariah is stunned to silence. The angel Gabriel showed up in person. He gave Zechariah a message that left him speechless. “If you want a son, go home and make one,” said Gabriel. And because you question how this can happen in your old age, you will not speak again until the baby is born. Zechariah says, “How is that possible? When will this happen and how can this happen? We’re too old to have children.”
Sometimes life just leaves you speechless and what we ought to do in those moments is to stay quiet. Instead we start babbling like crazy, asking questions, wondering how and wondering when it’s going to happen.
Sometimes things are so unexpected, so out of this world, so good that “we just don’t know what to say.” The greatest temptation is to start explaining, questioning.
Since Zechariah was struggling with his own belief, God decided it would be better for him to be thought a fool than to have him speak up and remove all doubt. Go home and be quiet. You can’t even explain it to Elizabeth how she is to give birth to John the Baptist. So don’t even try. Sometimes silence is stunning. It leaves us speechless. It is a glorious day when we discover that some things just can’t be explained.
This Advent Wednesday, try to be as silent and as quiet as you can be. Dwell on those things in your life that can’t be explained or put into words.