This morning’s Gospel reading was from early in the book of Luke, Zechariah nine-months silent after questioning Gabriel’s message of hope for the old man and his barren wife. Zechariah walked out of the temple mute but making signs with his hands, unable to say a word about he had seen and heard. I wonder if he assumed that his voice would return as soon as little John left the womb, if he was sad or mad as another silent week passed beyond the boy’s birth. Elizabeth names the child “John” and the neighbors and relatives push back because no one in the family had been named that before. So they turn to the mute man, making gestures of their own, futile. And then, with the scribbling of the words “his name is John” on some at-hand tablet, the priest’s mouth is opened and his tongue is freed and all kinds of praise breaks loose.
I’m no Zechariah, but I have been silent lately. True: I talk every day in class, have even preached a few times recently. But I’ve also been experiencing an odd silence in different parts of my life, and I haven’t quite figured out why. But reading Zechariah’s story this morning nudged me into hoping that some scribbling here and there will help loosen this tongue a bit. And while I doubt every word will end up as praise, maybe they can at least point to something better.
Advent is about silence and its breaking, about four centuries of hope deferred cracked apart by sentences as simple as an infant’s name declared on ink and parchment. And maybe it’s even a bit about breaking some of the strange silences in our own lives. I believe that God is good like that.