“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.” (Luke 1:13)
“I don’t believe you.”
“This can’t possibly be true.”
“Show me some proof.”
Ever hurled those accusations at God? Ever prayed incessantly with no response, lived your life solely to please him, and then just when you’ve given up all hope, God shows up with a surprising answer. But you don’t believe him. You can’t make sense of it and come up with loads of excuses why his plan couldn’t possibly work.
This priest and his wife, Elizabeth, did the correct things, believed the right way, and went about their affairs fulfilling all of God’s commandments. Perfect pair, without a blemish or a fault.
It wasn’t really fair, what God allowed. He could have given them a child, but hadn’t. He could have granted their request, but didn’t. For some inexplicable reason, their longing for a child was never realized. They just kept asking anyway.
But when God was ready to send the man who would draw the hearts of his people to their Messiah, he picked this couple to be his parents. “Call him John,” the angel Gabriel directed. He will flip the world upside down and “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:17).
Impressive directive delivered from the King. The ones who had their hearts smashed, dreams crushed, and hopes snuffed out month after month, were the very ones God had chosen to raise the man who would be the forerunner to Christ’s entrance.
But Zechariah doubted. The message didn’t make a drop of sense to his logical mind, so he questioned its validity. His unbelief came with a heavy price tag. His tongue was silenced and his words evaporated. For nine months.
He couldn’t shout excitedly when his aged wife told him she was pregnant. He couldn’t whisper tenderly to the baby within or give voice to the thrilling sight of the miracle growing before his old eyes. And when Mary showed up, he could not express delight that the mother of his Savior had entered his very home. Nine months of the spectacular unfolded around him and all the while he was locked away in silence.
Our own “silent night, holy night” is fast approaching, and God is asking us to believe that he is still in control even when nothing else seems to be. God wants us to remember he remains the same, he hasn’t changed, even though our entire world has.
The message the angels would declare the night of Christ’s birth was never more necessary than now: “Fear not…” Don’t fear the future, don’t fear what might possibly happen, don’t fear the unknown. Don’t allow unbelief to cloud your thoughts and dictate your response.
Instead, let’s make our way through this Christmas season as if we believe God’s promises are true, his character dependable, and his words perfectly suited for now.
Elizabeth A Mitchell