by Mike Kinman
“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.” (Luke 1:20) Probably my favorite minor character of Advent is Zechariah.
Luke’s Gospel tells the story of Zechariah being in the temple and – much as with Mary – the Angel Gabriel comes to him and gives him news of a miraculous birth. His wife, Elizabeth, will conceive and bear a son.
Also like Mary, Zechariah is flummoxed and answers,. “How can this be?” But while Gabriel cuts Mary some slack, the angel’s answer to Zechariah at first seems much less grace-filled. As a consequence of Zechariah’s doubt, the angel strikes him mute … and speechless he remains until after the birth, when the new child is finally given the name the angel instructed him – John.
Some say the real Christmas miracle is that a man (a priest, no less) actually stayed silent for more than nine months! And as both a man and priest who loves to talk, Zechariah has always been an important reminder to me this time of year.
Talk less. Listen more.
I’ve always found this to be sage counsel not just for Advent but for the whole year round. Not in the Aaron Burr to Alexander Hamilton sense of cagily keeping our cards close to your vest (“Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for”), but because when I remember to talk less and listen more, I leave room for what happened to Zechariah to happen to me – to get messages from God that can change my life.
When I remember to talk less and listen more, I hear sacred stories of holy lives. I hear different perspectives that give me glimpses of Christ. I catch things that otherwise I might have missed. I leave space for God to move and speak and sing.
As much on the surface, it seems like Gabriel cursed Zechariah, when I practice this – when I talk less and listen more — I realize that what the angel gave him was actually a blessing. A blessing that can be mine if I just have the presence of mind and prayerfulness of spirit to remember it.
During the Season of Advent, we will offer daily meditations from All Saints Church. Today’s is written by Mike Kinman, Rector.