December 11 Saturday
“I believe; Lord, help my unbelief.”
Zechariah was a righteous man, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. He was of the priestly line, and demonstrated his devotion to God by serving in the Temple. His wife, Elizabeth, was descended from Aaron. These were good, pious people, who loved their God and sought to be faithful with their whole lives. As a reward for this faithfulness, God sent the angel Gabriel to tell Zechariah that the deepest longing of his and Elizabeth’s hearts was going to be granted. Though they were both advanced in years, and she barren, Gabriel promised Zechariah a miracle, a son. And he went on to say that this son would be “great in the sight of the Lord.” Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son had been chosen by God to be part of the unfolding of the wonderful acts God was about to perform. Their son was to “prepare the way of the Lord.”
It was truly more than Zechariah ever dared hope for. He was a righteous man, pious and devout; he believed in God. But who could ever be prepared to accept the appearance of a heavenly host and the promise that that which you know to be impossible, which you have long since given up hoping for, will be given to you? He believed, but he was also a realist. And so his response to this miraculous news was, “How will I know that this is so?” Zechariah was asking Gabriel for something tangible, some small proof. He wanted to believe, but was afraid of the crushing blow of disappointed hope. And as a result, Gabriel struck him mute. Because Zechariah could not bring himself to dare hope for what he wanted most, he was rendered unable to speak until all that God had promised was fulfilled.
Sometimes the promise of God’s intervention in our world is more than we can believe. We sing hymns of the coming Lord, pray for a time when nation will not take up sword against nation, strive for a world in which none go hungry and children are not born for calamity. But in our heart of hearts, it’s just too much to hope for. And yet, not even our doubts, our realism born of self-preservation, our fears are enough to stop God’s plans for our world. God has entered into human history and God continues to enter into our history, unfolding God’s plans for our world. And when we are able to see those glimpses of God, the miracles in our life, those moments we dared not hope for, the walls of our protected heart come down, and our tongues are let loose, and all we can do is praise God.