There were 400 years of silence between the Old Testament and the New.
400 years where God did not speak. 400 years with no angels, no prophets–only the promise of hope to cling to. For Narnia it was always winter but never Christmas. Our world slumbered in spiritual darkness–always night but never dawn. Till one day the sun started to glimmer over the horizon–Aslan was on the move and God was getting ready to redeem his people.
But first God had to prepare his people. They needed a messenger who would shake them awake and remind them to be on the lookout so they didn’t miss the Savior.
It was a season of preparation, and God started with Elizabeth and Zechariah
Zechariah was a priest and Elizabeth, his wife, was also from a priestly family. They were righteous, faithful, and obedient. But their faithfulness had not been without hardship. They were faithful, they were old, and they were childless. Elizabeth was barren. Luke takes only a sentence to convey a lifetime of sorrow: “Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were well advanced in years.” Months of hope gave way to years of grief and finally a sorrowful acceptance. They were well advanced in years, and it had been a long time since Father Abraham. Yet they remained faithful despite their sorrow, and God–whose timing is always perfect–had not forgotten their prayers.
God shattered 400 years of silence with an angel’s voice. Zechariah was chosen by lot to offer incense before the altar of the Lord in the temple–something that only happened once in a priest’s lifetime. There, alone in the stillness with the heavy cloud of perfumed smoke swirling about him, Zechariah was startled by Gabriel’s sudden appearance. Gabriel’s message was simple: God has heard your prayers. Elizabeth will have a child. You will name him John, and many will rejoice at his birth. John would not be the Messiah, but he had a role to play. He was the forerunner–the one who would prepare the people for the Savior.
The last word God speaks in the Old Testament are the first words he speaks in the New. Before Messiah comes, God will send a prophet “in the spirit and power of Elijah” who would make the way ready for the King. Like Elijah, John called the people to repentance. Repentance is a realigning of our hearts where we turn from our sin and toward the Savior. It is an active choice in which we reject darkness and align ourselves with the kingdom of Light. In repentance we say no to sin and yes to God, and repentance always prepares us for what God is going to do.
Zechariah stammered around and asked for a sign (as if an angelic message wasn’t sign enough). His sign was the gift of silence. 9 months of waiting and watching in silence. 9 months of putting it all together; of silently witnessing as Elizabeth’s cousin Mary came to visit and his wife broke out into joyous song when Mary entered the room. Little Mary, the mother of the Lord? Could it be? But even his unborn child recognized what Zechariah could hardly believe. God himself had chosen to enter the world through the unlikely vehicle of a virgin’s womb, and Zechariah’s baby would prepare the way for the Savior’s coming. The silence was over. God was moving among his people proving his mercy once again. They had lived in darkness, but God was sending light. And little John would herald the Savior’s coming.
The Lion of Judah was on the move, and it was time to get ready.
In Advent, we also prepare ourselves for the Savior’s coming. Like Zechariah and Elizabeth, we cultivate faithfulness so we are ready when God begins to move among his people. We practice repentance, tuning our hearts to hear the footsteps of our Lord. And we prepare by being watchful, looking to see where God is moving so we can join him in his work. Christmas, after all, was only the beginning. The Lion of Judah is still on the move, eagerly seeking those who will worship him. When he roars, will we be ready to answer? Christmas is about welcoming Jesus. Is your heart ready to receive him?
How are you spiritually preparing yourself this Advent season?
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