[Zechariah said to baby John] “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1: 76-79)
For years I vaguely thought that this passage was Simeon talking to the baby Jesus. Wrong. It was Zechariah speaking to his own miracle baby son, following the priest’s period of enforced silence. How often has my silence been enforced because I didn’t feel I could do anything? Like nothing was happening?
Zechariah’s silence was the result of his sin of disobedience to God. I mean, Gabriel came to tell him who his son would be for Pete’s sake. This was a mirror to God telling Abraham that he would have a son. Sarah may have laughed but Abraham believed. It was also a mirror to a closer event: Gabriel telling Mary she would have God’s own son and Mary responding to God in humility and praise. Zechariah didn’t believe, not at first, and he was struck silent. But then the miracle happened and Elizabeth became pregnant. He still couldn’t speak but his silence was broken at John’s birth and he himself prophesied. What happened during all of those silent months when he saw God’s word come true? He must have repented and realized how foolish he had been for the power of the Holy Spirit poured out of him at the birth.
Have I denied miracles and then been struck mute? In spirit if not in body? Mute while the miracle grows within me, until I am ready to trust and believe and act.