Have you ever noticed how corrosive doubt is? My husband tells me not to flick off the complement that comes my way. Don’t dismiss it so quickly. Doubt diminishes the speaker and cripples me. Zechariah is standing in the presence of an angle, the angel Gabriel who “stands in the presence of God.” His deep wish for a child has been promised but he is crippled by doubt. Disappointment builds walls of cynicism around our hearts and lives and can make us defensive when facing another. Prove it, we respond. We say, if it sounds too good, there’s a problem. We buy insurance for accidents we will not have money to pay for, for medical expenses we have not expected and for old age when we cannot care for ourselves. Doubt is the revolving door that is followed by fear of another disappointment, another criticism, or an inability. Zechariah doubts God’s promise sent by an angel. We like him, often doubt. Christmas is filled with glitter and music but there is also the doubts of buying the right gift, preparing the right dish, or the doubt of ever seeing our loved departed – grief.
Interestingly, the angel Gabriel sentences Zechariah to nine months of silence. What is that about? Why silence? Now there is a good question to ponder this morning. How does silence work to resolve in my life?
It is easy to “chew my bone” and discuss with friends situations we are going through. How many hours did my girlfriends and I sit up and discuss dates!!! Was the guy serious or not? Discussion can exaggerate the doubt or through false flattery diminish reality. My daughter in junior high would come out painted in lipstick and her friend would croon, “You rock that look!” Really?
Silence slows my roll. I am forced to communicate through writing or actions. Deaf and mute people communicate so obviously it is possible but to loose a sense requires a whole regrouping of life.
Silence throws me back on my beliefs and encourages me to ponder a relationship with a God who has brought on the silence. My guess is that Zechariah spent time dealing with his relationship with God.
So how are we doubting and experiencing silence this Advent season? Is there a little voice raising questions about the love of the person whom you would like to gift? Pondering my motives in giving is a good exercise to reflect on before God. Have I built spiritual disciplines of finding those silent times when I can detox and focus on the important things of this season? When social pressure is high, drawing aside and spending some time in reflection and silence can be a big blessing! May we bring our doubts to God and spend times in silence listening to the God who wants to bless us. Zechariah’s silence was only for a season and that is hope! This too shall pass so let’s make the best of it. God is with us!