Today we will be reading from Luke 1:5-25:
5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was descended from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. 7 But they had no children because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.8 Once when he was serving as priest before God during his section’s turn of duty, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to offer incense. 10 Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified, and fear overwhelmed him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16 He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I know that this will happen? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” 19 The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”21 Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering at his delay in the sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was ended, he returned to his home.24 After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25 “This is what the Lord has done for me in this time, when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”
As I read today’s text, I was struck by something. Silence. What happens to Zechariah when he does not believe the word of the angel? Silence. What does Elizabeth do for five months after she conceived? She secluded herself; she was away from everyone. Alone. Silence.
We live in a loud age, don’t we? Social networks (relationships) have transformed into social media (performance). We must always be talking. We must always be acting. We are always creating content, creating opinions. We are full of many thoughts; we are full of many ideas.
We’ve all got a lot to say.
And I think that’s why a little silence may be good for us, may be good for our soul. I’m sure there was much that Zechariah wanted to say, but he couldn’t. I’m sure there was much that Elizabeth wanted to say, but she didn’t.
They were both silent.
I think there may be something there for us today. We need silence. We need the ability to listen. To ponder. To be fully present with others. So often, even in conversation, we aren’t listening; we are thinking about what we want to say next.
Today, with everything happening in this run-up to Christmas, Silence may be a good thing for us. Find time for silence. Find time for seclusion. Find time to listen. Find time to be still.