Luke 1:11-20 While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”
There are quite a few unsung heroes in the Bible, and one that is often left out of the Christmas story and the nativity is old Zechariah. Y’all remember him don’t you? He was the husband to Elizabeth. Zechariah and Elizabeth were very righteous in the eyes of the Lord. They were good people. They followed the commands of the Lord, yet they were getting up in age, and they had no children. Surely the towns people gossiped about them. They probably thought that these two upstanding citizens had a deep dark secret that only God knew, and therefore, God was preventing them from receiving the gift of children. You know how the gossip mongers can be. Nonetheless, this childless couple remained faithful to the Lord, and the Lord knows and remembers His faithful children.
Zechariah didn’t have a clue that he was going to be part of the greatest story ever told. He didn’t know that God was preparing the scene for the birth of the Savior. First, God sent His angel Gabriel to announce to Zechariah that he and Elizabeth would be parents. They wouldn’t just be parents of any old John Doe, they were going to parents of John the Baptist! Look at Gabriel’s introduction of the child that was to be born to them: “he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” Wow! Not only were they going to be blessed with a son in their old age, they were being blessed with the one that would prepare people for the coming of the Lord and turn the rebellious to godly wisdom.
I can only imagine what Zechariah was feeling and thinking. That old fellow didn’t keep his thoughts to himself. He voiced his doubts out loud as I’ve tended to do from time to time. That verbalized doubt must have stung Gabriel for Gabriel had to remind Zechariah of just who he was. He quickly let Zechariah know his name, that he stood in the very presence of God, and that God sent him to personally deliver this good news to Zechariah. Gabriel was an important angel, and apparently Zechariah didn’t know it. Remember where Gabriel was going next? He would soon be stopping by to visit a virgin by the name of Mary to announce her pregnancy and impending delivery of the King of kings. Yes, Gabriel was important, and old Zechariah didn’t give him his due respect so Gabriel silenced Zechariah. He informed him that he would not be able to speak until the child was born because he did not believe what he had told him.
Zechariah returned home, and just as Gabriel announced, Elizabeth became pregnant. They didn’t tell anyone for five months. (Zechariah couldn’t speak anyway.) They kept the pregnancy to themselves until Mary went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, and the baby leapt in the presence of the Mary who was carrying the Christ child. “At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 1:41) Nine months after Gabriel’s announcement in the temple, Elizabeth gave birth to a baby boy. The people wanted them to name the child Zechariah after his father, but Elizabeth told them that his name would be John. Zechariah asked for a tablet, and he wrote the name John on the tablet, and immediately, he was able to speak again.
Zechariah was silenced for nine whole months. He wasn’t able to speak for nine…long…months. We must remember that those nine months were months that were leading up to the birth of Christ. I bet Zechariah didn’t see it as a blessing at the time, but wow, what a blessing it was. God gave this man nine months to quietly reflect on the events that were about to happen, events that would change the world forever. Zechariah and his wife were birthing John the Baptist, a mighty disciple for Christ. He baptized many in the name of the Savior, and he even baptized Jesus. Shortly after the birth of John, the King of kings and Lord of lords was born. Zechariah was given nine whole months to quietly reflect on these glorious events.
Here we all sit, some 2000 plus years later, on the verge of celebrating that great birthday of the King. Are we quietly reflecting on this wondrous event? Are we recognizing the glory of it all? Are we silently remembering that silent night long ago, that night when the Baby was born that would change the world? I am willing to bet that most of us aren’t having too many silent days. I know that I’m not. I’ve been working harder than ever recently, and I am exhausted at the end of each day…BUT there is always time for quiet reflection. I challenge you to find some time to be silent this season. Spend some time with the Savior each and every day. Give Him more than five minutes here and there. He deserves your time and your presence. Don’t make Him send Gabriel down here to Ssshhh you! After all, His presence was the greatest present ever given to this world! Christ deserves our praise and honor every minute of everyday!