Lutheran Spokesman

"…the Scriptures cannot be broken." John 10:35


A “silent” lesson in the promise of Christmas

Written by Mark Bernthal | December, 2011
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Dear reader, please have Luke 1:5-25 before you

“Silence is golden” is the old saying.

To a frazzled mom with noisy, active little ones, it is a golden time when the children are put to bed and the house is quiet. For a teacher after a long day, it is a golden time when the students go home and the classroom is silent.

Well, the silence that affected Zacharias was also a golden moment, even though it was given as a chastening for his unbelief.

As Zacharias was serving in the temple, the angel Gabriel appeared with great news. Zacharias and his wife would have a son in their old age. The angel said, “You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.”

One would think that Zacharias would praise this God he was serving, telling everybody the joyous news. But instead, he asked a doubt-filled question, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”

Because of that unbelief, Zacharias would be silenced. Until the time that John was born, he would not be able to use the voice with which he had questioned God.

Think of it. For nine months Zacharias was mute. In that way he would be reminded that nothing is impossible for God. God’s ways are not man’s ways. God could have
given him a son years earlier. He could have opened Elizabeth’s womb, but He chose it to be this way and at this time because the son to be born was to be the forerunner of the Savior, and because the fullness of the time was near at hand.

Zacharias believed this promise of the Messiah. But when the message came about his son being born to pave the way for the Messiah, his faith failed. He could not get beyond what he could see with his eyes. Since he and his wife had aged bodies, he just knew that it was not humanly possible to have a child. He forgot the principle that with God nothing is impossible.

No doubt Zacharias thought about that meeting with Gabriel many days over the next nine months. Though his silence was a penalty, it was at the same time a blessing. He learned to not doubt God’s promises or ways but to humbly submit to His will.

Before we “tsk, tsk” at Zacharias, let’s examine ourselves. Have there been times in our lives when we should have been praising God for His blessings, but instead we questioned His timing and ways?

For example, when we heard the sad news of the death of a loved one or the bad news of a serious disease, could we really trust God’s promises to see us through?

In God’s Own Time

What a blessing that when we express such doubts the Lord does not strike us dumb and silent! At such times we should learn to declare His praise, knowing that the Lord is God! His great promises will be fulfilled in His own time.

Our good health, our recovery from illness, our possessions, friends, family, our jobs and everything else—all are in God’s control. He dispenses such things as He knows best. He does not do this to hurt us but because He loves us. He would bring us closer to Himself through humble submission.

During the season of Advent may we be led to prepare for Christ’s coming with a heart that doesn’t doubt God’s promises but humbly clings to His Word.

We too wait and wonder. We wait to celebrate again the birth of our Savior and we also wait for our Savior’s promised return. With wonder we look at the baby in that manger and see true God and true Man, the only substitute and Savior of all mankind.

We wonder how God could be so loving and gracious that He could sacrifice His own Son for us. We wonder how the Son of God could be so loving that He would give up His glory, taking our place as a human being under the Law, and then suffering and dying for us.

And as we look forward to His Second Coming, we wonder why the seemingly long delay, and what that coming will be like.

But through God’s revealed Word we are brought to understand that His love is perfect. His grace is undeserved. His patience is enduring. He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Elizabeth waited patiently for her promised child, John the Baptist, to be born. No doubt her husband’s silence was a lesson also for her. She humbly praised and thanked her God for this great gift, saying, “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

The birth of our Savior into human flesh is that way for us too. As we prepare to celebrate His first coming and look forward to His second, let us wait with confidence and faith rather than with doubt and unbelief.

May the silence of Zacharias then be a lesson for us to simply believe the promises from our Savior-God. Then on our part we will not remain silent but lift up our voices to sing God’s praises here in time and hereafter in eternity.

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