❝Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.❞ Luke 1:22-23
Reflection by the Rev. Ellen Richardson
The story of Zechariah losing his voice during the months of waiting for the birth of his son John the Baptist is a powerful Advent story for me. Being silenced–whether physically, socially, politically, or spiritually–can be frustrating at best and dehumanizing at worst. Our voices carry our needs and wants and our very identity into the world. It is with our voices that we sing, or share conversation, or hush a crying child. We need our voices to cheer on our favorite teams and to speak out about injustice. Some of us need them to preach or teach. We need our voices to lament, and to say our prayers. Zechariah needed his voice to name his long awaited son.
Yet when I find myself speaking much and listening little, I am reminded of two things: one is that when my voice drowns out all others’, I might as well be talking to myself, because I am the only one likely to be interested in what I have to say. The other is that even if I speak with the tongues of angels, if I am not speaking in love, then I am only making noise.
Each Advent, I think of the silence of Zechariah as kind of spiritual pause button, reminding me that to hear the possibilities of God, I need to put down the microphone. That Zechariah’s loss of voice seemed to make room for his child who would become “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord” is an irony not lost on me. Perhaps loss itself can be an important voice in Advent, making the way to hear the Good News.