“Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.” (Luke 1:13-15a)
I wonder what went through Zechariah’s head when he heard the angel’s news… Disbelief? A glimmer of hope? Excitation? As I dwell on this passage, I cannot help but have all of these emotions swirl through my heart. Zechariah and Elizabeth had hoped for a child for years, and none came. We don’t know how old they were, but Zechariah describes himself as “an old man” and Elizabeth as being “well along in years.” I’m guessing the prayer for a child was one they thought would not be answered with a “yes.”
How often do we pray and expect an answer shortly thereafter? We live in a world that longs for immediate gratification. I regularly find myself getting frustrated with “slow” internet, or a delayed response to an email. When a new movie, tv season, or video game comes out we want to order it right away, rather than waiting for the price to drop. When students have a question, the answer must come immediately, even when their question is complicated. We feel pressure to give quick responses to tragic situations across the globe. There’s little room to think things through. It’s almost as if we believe the speed of our response is a measure of our sincerity. We have difficulty waiting.
Waiting is exactly what Zechariah and Elizabeth knew. Weeks slipped into months. Months slipped into years. Years slipped into decades. Still no child. Zechariah’s name was chosen by lot to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense – a rare privilege. There, to the right of the altar, an angel appeared to him and gave the answer he and Elizabeth had prayed for, had longed for, for years. They would have a child!
As we enter this advent season, I’m reminded that it’s good to slow down. Advent is a season of waiting. It is far from easy. In fact, I’m sure Zechariah would readily agree that it’s hard. Waiting is difficult. He waited for decades for a child. His people Israel also knew waiting, having waited hundreds of years for their messiah.
Have you experienced a time in your life when you needed to wait?
How can you practice waiting this advent season?