“And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.” Luke 1:20
There is no mistaking the signs of Christmas season abounding all around us. This time of year brings many things to our minds, collectively and individually. But for me, these past few weeks I have been meditating on what it means for us as Christians to have a living breathing hope, through Jesus, even when our circumstances would tell us otherwise. To that end, I have been looking at the experience of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s journey of promise. Their story occurs simultaneously with the conception of the very reason for this season, Jesus.
Zechariah and Elizabeth had been living with deferred hope – no children in their youth, and no possibility in their sunset years. They had been imprisoned by the kind of hopelessness that leads to death. There was no longer any possibility in their natural life to fulfill their desire, and so their hope, and faith, died with the aging of their bodies.
Enter Gabriel – dispatched to deliver the word of God. This mighty angel knows that when God speaks things happen. The pronouncement shook loose the hopelessness and impossibility in Zechariah.
Any contrary words needed to be silenced. The son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, John, would be the mouth piece of God, calling Israel to return to their first love, challenging them to turn from sin and enter again into great possibility. God would not allow Zechariah to speak discouragement and unbelief in this season of emerging hope.
Zechariah’s encounter with Gabriel ended in imprisonment. It was an act of mercy, not punishment.
While Elizabeth would be pregnant for nine months with John, Zechariah would become pregnant with hope, imprisoned in silence in order that he would hear again the promises of God that had been spoken by the prophets.
At the right time, God shattered the tomb of hopelessness in Zechariah’s heart and rolled away the stone. Zechariah’s silence was broken by an outpouring of prophetic praise, a recounting of the faithfulness of God, new life poured out;
“Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:78-79
Zechariah had become a prisoner of hope. Within this stronghold, life and faith were renewed. His mouth poured forth what was now resident in his heart – new life, new faith, a renewed love for God.
The Christmas season comes to remind us that God is always at work to fulfill His promises. Let the Living Word surface the opposition in your heart – let it call you back to be imprisoned by mercy.
Be renewed again by hope, not in an outcome, but in the faithfulness of a loving God.