Poor old Zechariah. A perfectly understandable wobble in the face of apparently ridiculous news and he’s struck dumb for questioning. This is, as Maggi points out, apparently quite unfair since plenty of others have encountered God and demanded proof.
Today is all about waiting…a renewed emphasis on our waiting for the birth of our saviour comes through looking at the waiting and end of hope for another child, that of Elizabeth and Zechariah.
What are you waiting for? Is there an unfulfilled longing in your heart?
There are two other points to take away from this passage. First: Zechariah’s muteness means Elizabeth has a role in declaring the arrival of John. Would the people she met have been incredulous as they saw her growing? It would be a fascinating conversation to overhear.
Secondly, we are pointed to the symbolic nature of Zechariah’s silence. He was a priest, serving in the Temple. But his silence represents the gap, the change to a new priesthood – that of Jesus, our new high priest. The church doesn’t let people into priestly orders lightly these days, and many potential priests spend a long time in the process of discernment. Fire, angels or even a helpful direct message from God are few and far between.
I can remember as a child asking ‘how do I know whether this is God speaking to me or just my own ideas?’ – how do you know which it is, whether it is inspiration or indigestion you’re feeling? I’ve never quite worked that out, and I’m just a teeny bit suspicious of those who are so certain that God Told Me to (buy this, go there, do that, talk to that person, etc). At least in our indecisiveness and doubt we know we are in good company…