Advent 1: Silence in Luke 1 before song

This past Monday The Kindlings Muse had their annual Christmas show at Hale’s Pub in Fremont.  Always an eclectic gathering (read: island of misfit toys) of passionate artists, writers, singer/songwriters, and book worms reflecting on this season.  For my part, I read a portion of an unpublished book I have had sitting on my hard drive for the past three years entitled ‘Fear Not! – Reflections on the Sounds of Christmas‘.  Basically,  as the title points to, I trace the ‘fear not’ refrain from Isaiah 41 through the various uses in the New Testament.  One of the chapters of the book looks at Luke 1 where Zecharias the husband of Elizabeth (Mary’s cousin and soon-to-be mother of John the Baptist) is praying in the temple when he is visited by the angel Gabriel who announces that his wife, advanced in age, will give birth to a son.  In many churches, Advent is about the ‘popular’ stories of the season – the shepherds in the fields, Joesph and Mary travelling to Bethlehem for the census, Mary’s Magnificant where she declares that her ‘soul magnifies the Lord’ (we can all hear Handel’s musical score at this point).  But before everyone starts breaking into a version of ‘High School Musical’ in bathrobes under the Palestinian moonlight, there is silence.  Zechariah upon hearing that there is no reason to fear turns his well-heeled overly educated mind to Gabriel’s announcement and questions how such a thing could even be possible?  Certainly a valid question for many of us – how indeed.  How can the Divine break into our lives without so much as an Outlook calendar invite?  How can an angelic visitor come into a very busy schedule of pious prayer, interrupt, and expect anything but serious questioning?  To say that Zecharias reminds me of many of my clergy friends during this time of year is a vast understatement.  To put a sharper point on it – I think we skip preaching on this passage of Luke because it simply hits too close to home.  But there it is: the religious professional doing everything ‘right’ as the guild expects of him, yet misses the forest for the proverbial trees.  The result of this theophany? Silence.  Zecharias loses his ability to agree or disagree with the message before him and has to just “be” in the midst of the gathering glory – no longer able to either validate or invalidate what is taking place.  Probably the most painful place for a religious leader in many ways – to just “be” in the midst of the swirling events.   Elizabeth can now be heard – given voice in the narrative along with Mary with some of the most important insights into what the coming of Christ will mean and how we are to prepare a place in both our hearts and the world for this Emmanuel moment (something certain churches that denounce women’s leadership should take note of as well lest an angel shut their mouths as well …)

So Silence comes before the Song in our story.  Advent begins with waiting in the quiet…

Let those of us that have ears… be still…

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