Israel had a long wait before any novelties in salvation history. After the last Old Testament prophets spoke it was around five centuries before the angel Gabriel was sent to John the Baptist’s father and announced that John would be the prophet Malachi had said would come just before the Messiah. Zechariah was an observant Jew, but, after hoping for a child for so long, age probably convinced him nothing new was forthcoming. His faith was still there, but tired. When the angel Gabriel came and announced that he was to have a son and that his son would be the prophet heralding the Messiah, he responded with a tired and insufficient faith: he asked how an old man could beget a son.
It’d be fair to ask, “what, an angel of God appearing to you is not enough of a sign?” Zechariah needed “quiet time” to process what was happening and to see that what the angel announced would come to pass. Zechariah could represent all of salvation history before that first Advent: religious, waiting, but tired. Every Advent can present that same danger, which is why we need to impose “quiet time” on ourselves to process the incredible mysteries of God that are unfolding in these days: that the Word should become a baby and dwell among us, that God would want to live a human life to show his love and solidarity with us, and to lay down his life for us.
A lifetime of quiet isn’t enough to fully fathom that mystery, but if we don’t try then, like Zechariah, we’ll be silent spectators to the incredible things God has planned. Let’s live these last few days of Advent in silent wonder and openness to whatever God wants to announce to us this Christmas season.
Fr. Nikola Derpich, L.C., S.Th.D., is a theology professor at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome, Italy and a part-time associate pastor at St. Brendan the Navigator parish in Cumming, GA. He writes a weekly blog on liturgical prayer, Finding the Plug, for the Regnum Christi Spirituality Center, and a daily reflection on the day’s liturgical readings on social media.