In my humble opinion, and I know I’m showing my age, but two of the most talented male singers ever has got to be Simon and Garfunkel. One of their greatest hits released in 1965 was, ‘The Sound of Silence’, and that almost seems to be a contradiction in terms; how can silence create a sound?
In our noisy, fast paced lifestyle, the chance to slow down and be still can be very welcoming. When I was in the Lake District earlier this year, we enjoyed some beautiful sunsets and at a certain time of the day it seemed that the world almost stopped in order for us to be still and enjoy the surroundings; and as you gaze upon God’s Creation there are times when your breath has been taken away and all you can do is, in the stillness, stand, watch, enjoy and worship.
In Luke’s Nativity Story, one of the most interesting parts, for me, is in of chapter 1, when Luke tells us about the birth of John the Baptist. In my Advent Daily Readings, I came across this quote, ‘It’s often at the moment of greatest silence that our expectations are blown to pieces’….. and for Zechariah, that’s exactly what happened. As he entered into the Temple Sanctuary, he sees an angel standing near the altar, who informs Zechariah that ‘his prayer has been heard, your wife Elizabeth will give you a son’…. Luke 1:13.
In Luke 1:10, we see that it wasn’t only Zechariah who was ‘doing the praying’ – there was crowd of people outside doing the same!
The prayer that God heard wasn’t simply the prayer of Zechariah’s heart: it was the prayer of His people for their redemption and Zechariah gets to be part of this new, unexpected development in God’s story. The angel tells Zechariah that his son, John the Baptist, will turn many hearts to God; and he will be a prophet who will prepare the people ‘for the coming of the Lord’…
The unexpected is sometimes hard to believe. So it was for Zechariah. Even though the angel Gabriel gave him a very specific message, he doubted its truth. His mind immediately thought of the obstacles rather than the promise – ‘I’m old. My wife is old’. How do I know if any of this is true’? And it becomes clear that the only way the people will accept this amazing news is by preventing Zechariah from voicing any more concerns about God’s plans. Zechariah is unable to speak until God’s promise comes to pass, and Elizabeth gives birth to a son named John.
Has the Church lost its message of hope for the world today? If so, are we, like Zechariah, unbelieving in the face of God’s promises. Too often we interject our own agendas into God’s plans. When God has given us the greatest news of all to share, ‘that God so loved the world’… are we sometimes silent?
Art Garfunkel once summed up the meaning of their song as ‘the inability of people to communicate with each other, not particularly internationally but especially emotionally, so what you see around you are people unable to love each other.’
At Christmas, God has ‘communicated’ with His world and as the Gospel story begins to unfold, shows beyond any doubt, just how much He truly loves us’…..
As Linus says to Charlie Brown, in the comic strip Peanuts, ‘Love, Charlie Brown, is what Christmas is all about’…
Take time to reflect and act on the words from ‘O Holy Night’….
‘Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother and in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, let all within us praise His holy name’…..