“Be still and know that I am God.” —Psalms 46:10
Advent is upon us, and as usual it has caught me off-guard. Christmas trees appeared in stores at Halloween this year, and everything in me rebelled. Stop! Let us enjoy the seasons as they come, let us have Thanksgiving first. There is a time for everything, after all.
Well, the time has come, and even with all the advance notice of Christmas sales, I’m not ready. But perhaps that is the point. We need time to get ready, and so the Church in her wisdom gives us Advent.
By the end of the year, my calendar is black with ink and my soul feels dark and crowded. I need some light. Turning to Luke’s account of the very first Advent, I’m struck by the beginning. It’s not about Mary yet, but Elizabeth and Zechariah. Upright, observant people “but they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.” Luke begins with emptiness; a barren womb; an old couple who surely felt their time was past. Zechariah is so certain of that fact, even an angel can’t convince him otherwise. He is afraid. He doubts. He does not believe.
I am there sometimes, in spirit. How can Jesus come to me? There is no room for welcome in my soul. But wait—notice what happens to Zechariah and Elizabeth. They may not be ready, and they may doubt, but that doesn’t mean God will withhold his blessing. Zechariah goes home and his wife becomes pregnant—in spite of his doubts, he acts and the Lord blesses.
Another thing stands out as I read: Zechariah is struck silent and Elizabeth goes into seclusion as they wait. The silence of Zechariah may have been punishment for unbelief, but it also may have been remedy. When I feel barren, I work to fill the void with noise and activity. God knows this, and gives me (and us all) the gift of Advent: a time of quiet waiting, a time of emptying, time to turn a hollow void into a waiting manger.
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