This Christmas series is based on a quote by Frederick Buechner about the parable of the Good Samaritan:
Is the point of Jesus’ stories that they point to the truth about you and me and our stories? We are the ones who have been mugged, and we are also the ones who pass by pretending we didn’t notice. Hard as it is to believe, maybe every once in a while we are even the ones who pay an arm and a leg to help.
And perhaps sometimes we are the ones in the Christmas story. That’s what this series is about.
Zechariah is one of the first people we meet in the Christmas story in the book of Luke. To understand Zechariah, you should know some things:
- Zechariah was a priest.
- He was married to Elizabeth.
- They were old.
- Elizabeth was barren, so they had no children.
One day the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah with surprising news: they will have a son, whom they will name John (as in John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus).
Have a son in their old age? Zechariah was incredulous. But we can’t blame him. For years they had prayed for a child. They had watched their friends have children, but there was no bun in the oven for them. They grew loose and wrinkly, what happens when years have their way.
And all of a sudden, perhaps after they forgot all the prayers they had prayed and the tears they had cried at their empty oven, this angel announced that in their maturity, they would bring forth a boy. Now that’s a chuckle.
So Zechariah said, “How can I be sure of this? I’m an old man and my wife is old, too.” In other words, “Angel, I doubt what you’re saying. God, I doubt what you’re doing.”
How easy it is to doubt God’s workings, would you agree? We look this way and that and proclaim our judgment and decree shortcoming. We give up even before we get going, before God gets going. Before the going gets good, we throw in the towel. God can’t possibly do that, we announce. We’re like the angel of doom.
This is how we’re like Zechariah. He looked at his age and called it a limitation. But God looks at things differently than we do. Where we see limitation, God sees possibility. We see weakness, but God sees a way. Perhaps one of the greatest differences between us and God is his ability to think and act creatively in what we call a lost cause.
Often God has more confidence in his ability to work through us than we do.
And so what did the angel do in light of Zechariah’s doubt? He proclaimed a year of silence. Because Zechariah didn’t believe the word of God, Zechariah wouldn’t be able to speak until the son was born. Silence until the son, the angel said.
Was this punishment for his unbelief? Was he struck with silence because of his doubt?
It’s certainly easiest to think so because it jives with the idea of an angry God who demands blind faith and is ready with an itchy trigger finger should total allegiance or instant obedience not be offered. It’s easy to think of God this way. But God’s not a monster.
Who would blame crickety old Zechariah to doubt the angel’s claim about life springing from his wife-whose-well-was-dry? Who would blame him for doubting such an improbability? Certainly not God. God understood this was a far-fetched idea. God knows he’s more creative than we are. God is motivated by love.
So God did the most unmonsterly thing imaginable. He sent a sign to help Zechariah overcome his doubt (that’s the point of a sign). The silence was the sign.
“How can I be sure of what you say?” Zechariah asked. So God answered. And when the babe was born, the silence was lifted because in flesh he now appeared, finally dispelling all doubt.
We’re like Zechariah because in our doubt, God often sends a sign to help us overcome it. We’re the priest who should know God by now, but God keeps helping our unbelief.
What doubts do you have about God? How might He be answering them? You can comment by clicking here.
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