Are you listening?
A priest named Zechariah was chosen to go into the temple to perform the religious duties at the altar. While he was there, an angel of God appeared to him. The angel told Zechariah that he and his wife, Elizabeth, would have a son.
Zechariah did not listen.
Instead, he asked an age-old question: How can I be sure of this? And he told the angel that was not plausible because of his and his wife’s ages.
Zechariah was slow to listen and quick to question. He had questions because he was consumed with his desire for certainty.
As a result, he lost his voice.
When his son was born, everyone rejoiced. Neighbors and friends began insisting on naming the newborn after his father.
But Elizabeth said no; “his name will be John” (Luke 1:60). Zechariah also shook his head no.
Zechariah had been quick to question and slow to listen. Now he and Elizabeth were surrounded by people who were quick to speak and unwilling to listen.
How would a man who had lost his voice now convey a message that he had received from God when he could not speak? He made gestures, asking for a tablet.
What he wrote astounded everyone. “His name is John” (Luke 1:63).
Only after he wrote the name that he could not state audibly was Zechariah again able to talk.
During the months of silence, I wonder what he might have learned.
Perhaps he came to realize that holding a position of faith — for him, serving as priest — does not ensure a person will have faith. His desire to know absolutely, expressed in his question to the angel, revealed that he counted more on aspects of life he deemed indisputable and was uncertain of God acting in ways he could not imagine.
In Romans 10:17, Saint Paul says that faith comes by listening.
Jesus said, “Those who have ears, let them hear” (Mark 4:9).
Zechariah’s question exposes his intention merely to perform his duties, not listening for a word from God that would require faith to comprehend.
Advent is a season to reclaim the skill of listening. Effective listening skills underpin meaningful relationships.
In many corners of our society, the ability to listen has been obstructed by shouts, chatter, and other noise. Many have confused a relationship built on listening with an aspiration to build a coalition that merely supports one’s own opinion by the next sound bite.
We have become a society that talks about others, talks down to others, and talks at other people. We have forgotten how to listen.
After Zechariah learned to listen and demonstrated that he had heard and believed the message from God, he regained his voice. Advent is a season to regain our voice as a church. The season is filled with family traditions that include observance of the true significance of the season, which is the birth of Christ.
During this season, people seek certainty. God has spoken to the world with clarity. May we listen in faith and speak with clarity as we celebrate.