In The Bible‘s account of the first Christmas there is a fair bit of singing: the angels and Mary are most commonly noted for this. There is also the phrase “filled with the Holy Spirit” which appears a few times in the opening of Luke’s gospel. Again, Mary and Elizabeth are commonly noted on this front.
However, I’m going to spend the next a few days reflecting on the birth of John the Baptist and on his father, Zechariah’s song.
In Luke chapter 1, the angel, Gabriel appears to Zechariah and declares that he will have a son, despite his wife, Elizabeth being old and barren. His son is to be named John and will be in the spirit and power of Elijah. Elijah was a prophet in the Old Testament times.
So, this is a big deal. Interestingly, Zechariah is told by the angel that his son, John will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. The fact that this is noted would suggest that this is not a normal thing at all. John is obviously an important child but there is a difference between his spiritual identity in the womb and that of Christ himself. Mary is told The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
Whatever that actually means, it is clear that it’s a significant step up from John. Yet even in the womb, it is indicated that John has a strong spiritual connection to his relative, Jesus.
Zechariah being an old man, questions Gabriel, asking how he can be sure that this takes place. I always find it interesting what happens here, in comparison with others in The Bible. There are some who when they ask for a sign, God happily grants them one. However, in this instance, Zechariah is not only not given a sign, he’s forced into silence because he didn’t believe the angel’s words.
The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
It reads almost comically, although it wouldn’t have been comical for Zechariah. However, it does come across a little like Gabriel is getting cranky that he’s been sent on an errand from heaven to earth and this simple human being doesn’t just take at face value what he, a very important angel, has told him.
I’m sure that’s not really what’s going on, but it does seem a little like it.
Zechariah remained silent for all the months of his wife’s pregnancy. I’m just going to keep him on mute until tomorrow’s post. Until then –
Yours in the silence,