Today we’re looking at a second gift that was given on that first Christmas that continues to this day. (Be sure to check out the first post if you missed it). Like the first, it is a gift that many would claim is positive, but it also has negative implications. December can be a rough month for some, so let’s start with the good parts of this gift.
There is so much we can say here, but we talked about Mary a lot last week, so for now let’s just think about one key fact: the angel Gabriel talked to her. Talked as in spoke to her as clearly as a friend sitting across the table at Starbucks. Talked as in told her very specific things that were going to happen, such as her having a child who “will reign over the house of Jacob forever” (Luke 1:33a).
An angel made an appearance to Joseph, too, after he had decided to divorce Mary quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in he is from the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:20
Let’s get a quick background on Zechariah before we look at his Christmas gift of communication–or lack thereof. Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, prayed for a child for years and years, a prayer that had since ceased as a result of being “well along in years” (Luke 1:18b). Although he stopped using that gift of communication, he quickly discovered those prayers had indeed been heard.
Zechariah was a priest and he was chosen by lot to “go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense” (Luke 1:9). Listen to what happened next:
The angel said to him: ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.” Luke 1:13
The angel went on to speak of John’s life and the things God would do through him, but let’s skip over those details much like Zechariah did and go straight to his response:
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Luke 1:18
Are you ready for the angel’s response? Brace yourself!
The angel answered, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.” Luke 1:19-20, emphasis mine
Let’s do a quick recap: we have three instances of people talking to an angel. Talk about a gift of communication! Mary, Joseph and Zechariah had angels of the Lord come and speak to them directly! I don’t know about you, but if I’ve ever spoken to an angel, I have absolutely no awareness of it.
But let’s look at the flip side of this gift: the inability to communicate. We see hints of it in Zechariah’s life prior to entering the temple as he stopped asking for the thing they desperately wanted, but then it comes barreling to fullness after he dared question the one who stood in the presence of God. “And now you will be silent.”
You may be wondering how this gift of communication continues to this day. Matthew 1:23 says, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.'” Having God with us opened the lines of communication as people could talk to Jesus as freely as they could say hi to their next door neighbor. But of course, this gift no longer walks the earth like He did way back when, so how does it continue?
Ephesians 3:12 says, “In him (Jesus) and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” This is a painfully weak analogy, but bear with me for a second. There was some news that I really wanted to share with a friend, but it was too early in the morning to call them. I toyed with texting, but knew it violated my unwritten code of hours that are appropriate to do so. Then I remembered this person specifically telling me I could text them any time of day or night, so I shared my news. They weren’t upset about the time. To the contrary, they rejoiced with me and celebrated with me.
In the same way, Jesus tells us to approach the throne of God. We aren’t to wonder if we deserve it (for we don’t!) or if we’ll be condemned for entering His presence. We’re encouraged to approach boldly with freedom and confidence, but like Zechariah, we can squelch this gift.
Did you notice what Gabriel said was grounds for revoking Zechariah’s gift of communication?
Because you did not believe.”
All too often, we “gift” ourselves with this negative portion of communication for the same reason. We don’t believe God loves us, so we don’t talk to Him, or we don’t believe He cares about the things in our lives enough for us to bother Him.
As we know, communication can’t just be one sided. Our lack of belief can cause us to stop listening, too, doubting that God is personal enough to lead and guide us or to whisper to the marrow during the moments we need it the most.
Like any present you’ll receive this year, you have a choice as to what you’ll do with the gift of communication. Will you let it sit on a shelf with Aunt Freda’s fruitcake, or will you embrace it–undeserving as we are–and relish in the freedom and confidence to approach the throne of grace?
I vote we embrace it. I hope you do, too.