Advent Devotional — Tuesday, December 11

December 11, 2007, 8:30 am; posted by
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007
He (Zechariah) asked for a writing tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God.
(Luke 1:63-64; from the Morning Reading in The Divine Hours)

Zechariah is one of the more fascinating characters in the Christmas story. Because he fails to immediately believe the angel’s promise of a son, he is struck mute for nine months. When his son is born, he is freed from his muteness when he agrees with the angel and his wife Elizabeth that the baby is to be named John.

We tend to think of this as a punishment, and perhaps in a sense it was. But maybe it was more for Zechariah’s sake than anything. I believe that the deepest need of Zechariah’s heart at that time was silence. Think about it: he had just seen an angel appear before him, a supernatural messenger of God before his very eyes. This angel had given him good news, and instead of receiving it with joy, Zechariah demanded a sign: “How will I know that this is so?” So an angel stood before him, and still this was not proof enough for him that this was true; he demanded something more than the appearance of a supernatural being!

As remarkable as this seems to us, it reveals something about the human condition: we are able to miss even the most obvious messages God sends to us. The noise of our world renders God’s voice inaudible. The confusion of the world makes God’s good gifts look restrictive, makes our own self-destructive paths look appealing. Of course, the antidote to this is silence. When we intentionally shut off the noise of the world, we hear the voice of God without distraction and then we become more able to hear that voice amid the world’s noise. Intentionally choosing times of silence is a key to hearing God clearly in the world.

Of course, we cannot be trusted to intentionally choose the gift of silence; neither could Zechariah be so trusted. So he had silence graciously thrust upon him. And after nine months of imposed silence, finally he was able to recognize a good gift of God when he saw it. “His name is John,” he wrote, and finally he was able to move from silence to proclaiming the good news of God.

Likely you will not have silence thrust upon you these next two weeks. But I pray that silence suffuses your very being until Christmas Day. Live as one set apart from the world; live as one who observes it. Make a conscious effort to drown out the noise of the world, so that you can hear the Incarnate Word when He is spoken. And in so doing, may God equip you to proclaim the good news of that Boy to the ends of the earth; and may God’s vision for your life be born in this time of silence.


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