…Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside at the hour of the incense offering, the angel of the Lord appeared to him… Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John…Then Zechariah said, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”…Then when his days of ministry were completed, he went home. After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months, saying, “So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others.” Luke 1:5-25
This passage begins with Zechariah offering sacrifice in the Holy of Holies and receiving a surprising announcement from the angel Gabriel. In fact, he is so surprised by it that he cannot believe it. As any reasonable skeptic might also do, Zechariah questions the angel because he doesn’t see how he can beget a child when he is old and his wife is barren and past child-bearing years.
The thing is, God expects a great deal of faith from one of his good servants. Zechariah had always been a good and righteous man, so God led this priest a little deeper into the area of perfect trust. God struck him so that he could not speak until the child was born. God had listened to the prayer of Zechariah for many years, prayers for a son. Now, Zechariah had only to listen to God.
Sometimes we, like Zechariah and Elizabeth, pray and pray for something, but when it does not happen when or how we had hoped or expected that it would, we can forget that we ever prayed for it. Maybe we can even forget to listen to what God is saying in the silence. But, we can also learn from these holy people to know God is leading us to deeper trust, always to something that will bring us closer to Him.
Elizabeth, of course, had no trouble believing since she had conceived a child. In those days, it was considered a disgrace to be childless, even if you were a holy, God-fearing woman like Elizabeth. So, she rejoiced in the Lord’s allowing her to have a child. She paid no attention to worry about herself in having a child at an advanced age. She knew that her child was a gift from God not only for her and Zechariah, but for His Chosen People. She knew that God would carry out His Plan to redeem us all.
Yes, this Advent, let us wait with Zechariah in silent expectation and join in Elizabeth’s unselfish joy and trust. Then we, too, can prepare the way of the Lord as their son did.
Zechariah and Elizabeth together are our twenty-first Ornament of Grace.
Observing the Beautiful Ornaments
Have you learned to wait in the silence when you don’t hear God answering your prayers as you expected?
If God’s answer comes in a way different from what you expected, can you be sure it is an answer sent to bring you closer to Him? Can you give an example of this?