It begins again.
The ritual becomes radiant, the heavens rise and the earth bows, hope grows again where hurt and sorry was rooted; he leads us again to hiss holy ground. It is Advent.
But, do you expect anything from God? Do you expect God to actually do anything in you and for you?
Zechariah obviously did not expect too much from God. But he discovered unexpectedly that God does act and speak – now. Zechariah was living like we are, and like those in the time of Noah – knowing something about God but maybe not so aware of what God is up to, doing our work, living our life with maybe only a little real reference to God’s presence and promises already made, but not really expecting God to actually do anything much.
But the God of all creation changed that when he broke the silence to the unsuspecting Zechariah! God is breaking the silence between you and him again this Advent. God is breaking the silence between us and this community.
He is speaking and his speaking is light piercing darkness. His words are words of promise that light up gloomy or painful places of dark.
In the Bible it is agreed that the Lord did not speak for a long time to his people – about 400 years – and they felt it.
God’s people dealt with God’s silence by searching to fill the void. They found nothing that could fill that ‘God shaped hole’ inside the human person.
They searched for meaning, for rest – but found little.
They tried to figure out life on their own terms but things just got more and more conflicted. The Jewish community prior to this day of Zechariah was verbose, legalistic and deeply conflicted. When left to our own devises this seems the best we can come up with!
They found themselves on the edge of despair a lot in those 400 years between the last Prophet, Malachi, and this coming Jesus event.
Like a teenager with no confidence and hardly anything to say who hears good words for the first time from another – “You’ve got what it takes”. “You are valued”. “You’re are loved”, so the seeds of hope begin to sprout among a chosen few on planet earth. Zechariah got wind of it.
God speaks again. He speaks to an ordinary few. The silence is broken. Like a couple living in silent conflict who finally find the courage to open their mouths and speak words of truth about it all, the dam breaks, the anger and isolation is lifted and there is hope – a hope a new joy coming soon.
Zechariah lived the contrast and reveals our doubt or cynicism about God speaking and doing something unheard of before in our experience.
He who could speak had that gift taken away by a serious and intentional God. Zechariah was silent until that time was over – when the one promised to him was right in front of his eyes to touch and smell and see and hear.
It is clear that the God of Creation speaks and that as he speaks, the world changes, people change, the situation changes.
It is clear that God’s words do it all – his word prepares us and turns us back to him. It is clear as we rise to another Advent journey, this speaking that changes the human heart is on God’s heart. Speaking to you and I is his heart’s desire. It is what he loves to do because we are who he loves.
Will we handle his speaking? Will we welcome and embrace his words this time around, or will we remain in the days of Noah – doing out thing, buying our gifts and food and making our plans, paying little attention, seeking little contribution, standing off against God’s calling for me this time around?
God does more than talk the talk this Advent. He enters our current places, pain and purposes and does things. Jesus the ascended baby boy, now crucified and risen is right in front of our eyes to taste, touch feel and smell in his body and blood.
Pray friends. Pray for sharp hearing and soft heart. With both of these you might get to where Zechariah got. He was given the privilege of playing a role in God’s ongoing mission to seek and save his world. Zechariah and Elizabeth were privileged in giving birth to the greatest prophet that ever lived; John the Baptiser. he would be the one who would prepare the world for the coming of the promised Saviour.
What will the risen Jesus surprise you with in these days? What will he surprise us with and will we welcome him and his words for us?
Zechariah now speaks new words. He speaks the Spirit’s words. We will get new words and a reason to speak again this Christmas – like Zechariah eventually did he speaks to introduce the New Human, the New Hope, the New Truth, the New Life, unlike any other before or since – whom we worship and adore.
So, it begins. Spirit of the Living God, make the ritual radiant and the hope grow where hurt has been rooted. Make our time become eternal. Rise and we will bow in wonder.
He is just getting started with us in this preparation to the truly experience and respond in worship of the Christ.
Silence is over. Speaking is now. It is all in the listening.
44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
In Advent we will be using Martin Luther’s way of reflecting on Scripture and praying.
Let’s look at the Gospel readings and use this four part way of seeking deeper insight as we listen to God in Advent.
Luther pictures this way on engaging in Scripture as a string with little knots in it or a four stranded rope.
Slowly read out loud, noting words that stand out to you or questions that the word raises…..
Matthew 24:36-4436 ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[a] but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. 42 ‘Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
As a result of hearing this word, what is God teaching me about himself, myself and his kingdom? (Reflect/share these)
As a result of hearing this word, what is God calling me to repent of, turn away from, confess to him and receive his forgiveness? (Pray these)
As a result of hearing this word, what is am wanting to thank God for? (Reflect/share and pray these)
As a result of hearing this word, what is God inspiring me to ask him for? (Pray these)
Pray the Lord’s Prayer to end….