“How will I know that this is so?”

It begins with an elderly couple – they have no children, but they have each other; and they have their faith.  Zechariah takes his turn serving in worship – that was the way of it – and one day something fantastic happens!

He is alone in the temple – while the rest of the people pray.  And he sees an “angel of the Lord” standing next to the place where the offerings are made.  This is not a sweet, curly-haired angel – like you might be used to seeing on Christmas cards and among your holiday decorations.  This angel calls himself (yes, this angel is a MAN!) Gabriel.  He is impressive.  He is ‘shiny’.  He cannot be ignored.

This heavenly messenger tells Zechariah that he and Elizabeth are going to have a child – a son – whose job it will be to prepare people for the coming of the Lord.

Now, you have to understand that Zechariah, and Elizabeth, and all the people praying at the temple, and all of the nation of Israel  were waiting and hoping and praying for the day the Lord would come – the promise has been the one thing that kept them going for years and years and years.  So you can’t blame Zechariah for being a little…sceptical.  “How will I know that this is so?” he asks –

This question…it may be one of the most important questions in Scripture.  It is a question of faith – the kind that keeps us coming back to the temple, to worship, to wait, to wonder.  It is the question we ask – in a world that is desperate for proof; for something solid to hang on to…and Gabriel’s answer is the answer of a patient parent; because I said so.

Zechariah has faith – but no imagination.  His faith lets him serve God – he manages the duties of worship; burn the incense, say the prayer; raise hands, close eyes.  But his imagination won’t let him believe that God might actually work through him to deliver the message of salvation.  O, when all is said and done, Zechariah believes – but not before he is rendered speechless…

As Advent begins for us – as we consider again the marvel of God in our midst; the miracle that is ‘God-with-us”, I wonder if there are moments that will leave us speechless?  We are faithful – to a fault! – but can we allow ourselves to imagine what Christ’s coming means for us, for Creation?  We worship and we serve – saying the right things at the right times, but are we ready for the wonder – the peace – the hope – the joy that is contained in this promise that we celebrate?

We have a chance to be caught again by the beautiful mystery of the Incarnation.  Today we meet Christ as host and feast at his table – we share bread and juice; ordinary things – but we consider them something more on this day.  A sign and symbol of the REAL PRESENCE of Christ in our midst – of Jesus, Risen and glorified – Of God-with-us.

This brief moment in the presence of God has become a time of silent wonder and thoughtful reflection – a chance for us to ask for ourselves “How can I know that this is so?”  it is, as I said, an important question, but it doesn’t need to leave you silent.  it is the question that leads to the birth of new ideas, new approaches, and in time will lead us to the new born king.

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