there was a priest named Zechariah
of the priestly division of Abijah;
his wife was from the daughters of Aaron,
and her name was Elizabeth.
Both were righteous in the eyes of God,
observing all the commandments
and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.
But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren
and both were advanced in years.Once when he was serving as priest
in his division’s turn before God,
according to the practice of the priestly service,
he was chosen by lot
to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense.
Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside
at the hour of the incense offering,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him,
standing at the right of the altar of incense.
Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah,
because your prayer has been heard.
Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,
and you shall name him John.
And you will have joy and gladness,
and many will rejoice at his birth,
for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.
He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.
He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb,
and he will turn many of the children of Israel
to the Lord their God.
He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah
to turn the hearts of fathers toward children
and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous,
to prepare a people fit for the Lord.”
Then Zechariah said to the angel,
“How shall I know this?
For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”
And the angel said to him in reply,
“I am Gabriel, who stand before God.
I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news.
But now you will be speechless and unable to talk
until the day these things take place,
because you did not believe my words,
which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”
Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah
and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary.
But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them,
and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary.
He was gesturing to them but remained mute.
Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home.
After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived,
and she went into seclusion for five months, saying,
“So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit
to take away my disgrace before others.”
Luke 1: 5-25
Throughout the season of Advent the lectionary readings tell the story of Christ. They tell of his family, his history, the prophecy of the birth of the Messiah, references of what is to come. In this way the readings set the stage for the last days of Advent during which the story of Christ’s birth becomes more focused on those last days of waiting.
The Gospel reading today is more of that groundwork and speaks more specifically to the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ. After many many years of being unable to conceive a child, Elizabeth’s husband is greeted by a messenger of God and given the news that Elizabeth will indeed bear him a son. Of course in the face of this, Zechariah is skeptical and so he is struck mute.
It is notable that Zechariah has his voice taken from him at this time. Often, when we are speaking, reasoning, arguing, we find ourselves unable to listen. Zechariah was given the opportunity to listen and to hear this good news, this strong news, this miraculous and wondrous news. He was given the room needed to take it in and to understand the gravity of it.
Today, as you draw closer to the celebration of Christ’s birth focus on listening.
Speak less, breathe more deeply, listen with intention. See what that bring to you knowing that you have been given the Good News…
Our position today is called “Throne.” From Standing or Bowing bend at the knee as if to sit in a chair. Keep your knees aligned or behind your big toe to safeguard the knee. To intensify this position deepen by “sitting down” further into it, hinging at the back and bringing torso forward over the thigh. Hands can be in Prayer Position or lifted forward into “Welcoming.” Breathe slowly, with intention. Use your “anchoring” image or verse or simply focus on your breathing and “listen.”