An Awkward, Necessary Silence
“Silence is golden” is how the old adage goes. But, to be honest, most of us have a problem with silence. At work, I facilitate a lot of meetings and I have had to learn that sometimes what speaks most is silence. We can tend to want to fill the silence, to close the gap so it isn’t too awkward. But what if silence was forced on you?
In Luke 1:5-22, we see the story of Zechariah, a priest at the Temple and, eventually, the father of John the Baptist. When he receives the vision that tells him of John’s coming and how God will use his son, he questions it. And the angel Gabriel then says because he doubted, Zechariah wouldn’t be able to speak until his son arrives.
Now, Gabriel’s sentence on Zechariah seems a bit harsh to me. He was an old man with an old wife who just wanted to understand how it was all going to work. And instead, he gets the silence treatment. For months. But, what if the silence is more than just a way to punish? What if the silence was a way to prepare Zechariah for what comes next? And what if silence prepares more than just Zechariah?
History teaches us that silence is what the people of God had for 400 years in the gap between the Old and New Testaments. 400 years when the voice of God that had communicated with them clearly, first directly and then through prophets, priests, and kings suddenly didn’t say anything. But that silence spoke volumes. God was preparing them.
Advent is a season when we prepare ourselves to receive anew the mystery and hope that is Jesus. In a world where it feels like the volume is cranked up to 11, maybe we most need some silence. And, yes, silence may feel awkward. And, yes, we are tempted to fill the silence with other things and noise.
But, hopefully, the silence can prepare us and remind us of what Advent has for us.
As the hymn says:
“Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in Thee."
May you find some silence this Advent. Not as a punishment, but as a preparation and a reminder of What and Who we are preparing for.