Advent 3 Devotional: Silence Speaks

Advent 3 Devotional: Silence Speaks

Pastor’s note: this Advent, in both the Midweek Services and these Devotionals, I am asking you to consider some of Jesus’ distant relatives, and what they might tell us about him, teach us about our own faith, and change about our daily practice. As the season goes on, we obviously are getting closer to Jesus!  

This third week of Advent we looked to Ruth, Naomi and Boaz in the midweek service (as well as to Sojourner Truth and Bree Newsome.)  In today’s Advent Devotional we’re going to look to Zechariah and his silence.

Please begin by reading Luke 1:57-80

Zechariah would have been very little help with a baby on the way. That’s because God struck Zechariah silent after he questioned how God would give him and his wife, Elizabeth, a child. God promised not only a child, but one that would become a powerful prophet. Zechariah questioned how God might accomplish this promise, and the angel Gabriel took away his ability to speak until the baby was born.

As the angel’s promise swelled to fruition in Elizabeth’s belly, she and Zechariah had to prepare the house for the baby. Imagine planning anything so complicated when you partner needed to write out every question or response. In our modern parlance, imagine setting up a babies room – from painting to putting together furniture and choosing the mobile to go over the crib entirely over text messages, even through you two were working side by side the whole time. 

If you were Elizabeth, how long would you be patient? At what point would you give up and simply make every decision yourself? Little wonder that Elizabeth sings with joy when her cousin Mary arrives!

Mary experiences a different side of God’s miracle. She expects a miracle baby, just like Zechariah and Elizabeth, but she doesn’t know about Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy yet. Mary simply comes to Elizabeth because she trusts Elizabeth as her family. And Mary, with her miracle pregnancy, is in a tough situation: she’s perhaps looking for a welcoming embrace. 

Together they discover that they each carry a part of the same promise from God. Mary and Elizabeth show us how relationships of trust can help us make sense of God’s work in our lives.

God’s promise gives Mary a new song, while it stuns Zechariah into silence. Zechariah would have learned from Mary and been inspired by her, just like Elizabeth. Even though he remains silent until his baby is born, he finally speaks when he announces the baby’s name. It’s John, in keeping with the angel’s command. 

Zechariah’s friends and family do not understand why he choose such a name. But this time, even if others around him are questioning this child, Zechariah is more than ready to speak. 


REFLECT:  The birth of this baby will be the largest change in Zechariah’s family’s life (the same is true for most of the rest of us too). The couple prepares for that change while adapting to Zechariah’s silence. 

Change piles atop change, as is often the case in life it seems. But the expanding family draws inspiration from Mary, a younger relative who is also inspired by God’s miracle. 

How can we learn and share and identify God’s work with those older or younger than ourselves? (That’s a basic question for all that church does…) 

PRAY:  Inspire us, God, through the miracles you plant all around. Help us to see them even in the short days and long nights of winter. Show us the way you grow in the lives of others. Teach us to sing when we recognize your work. Help us listen and ponder respectfully in silence when we do not understand. Amen.

FIND:  We are invited to create “Jesse Trees” during Advent this year. They will be hung or decorated with memorials to the people in Jesus’ family tree and to the kinds of lessons they teach us. 

People participating in the Midweek Service and people reflecting on these Advent Devotions are both invited to “deck” a Jesse Tree for Advent. You can use an old table top Christmas tree, a bare branch, or even a coat hanger. Michael is just going to use the Rubber Tree and the Madagascar Dragon Plant in the temporary office window.  

Find something that represents what you’re willing to speak up for. Examples include a branch from nature for the environment, a photo of people you care about, or a news article about a cause important to you. Add it to your Joshua Tree (Or just place your item near your Jesse Tree. Some have taken pictures that they hang on the tree!).