Try to become aware that God is near, within you, making his home in your heart
For a few moments of stillness, settle yourself in a comfortable position. Allow yourself to become quiet within. Listen attentively to the different sounds you hear and to the inner voice in yourself. Maybe you can hear your own heartbeat. As you relax into listening, try to become aware that God is near, within you, making his home in your heart.
This week's reading is from the Gospel of Luke.
Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.
We often need silence to hear the truth
- Whatever this angel was like he terrified Zechariah at first. Zechariah was a man who was both honoured and shamed. He had not yet fathered a child, and both he and his wife would have been mocked for that. But it was an honour to be chosen to go into the holy of holies, an inner room in the Temple where the Tabernacle was located. In today's terms it would be like being chosen to be principal celebrant at a big liturgy, or the head sacristan! When Zechariah saw the angel terror took hold of him. But he was still able to hear the angel’s words about joy. He heard and listened.
- Zechariah later doubted that he and Elizabeth could possibly have a child. Unlike Mary – who was afraid but did not doubt – he was chastised for doubting and was struck dumb. He was reduced to silence, and in that silence he heard the truth, and kept it in his heart until he would name his child. We often need silence to hear the truth. Indeed it has been noted that ‘listen’ and ‘silent’ are two words with exact same letters!
- Zechariah’s prayer had been heard. He knew he would have a child, John the Baptist, who would announce the Saviour and prepare His way by ‘turning people to God’. Though for the moment Zechariah had to keep his holy secret in the silence of his heart, the joy of telling the world would come later. Our Advent silence, when we choose to take time away from the busyness of the festive preparations to listen to God, will increase the joy in our hearts this Christmas.
Talk to God
God can be found in ordinary life, where we live, in the sounds of people and nature
- The Lord takes the name my parents gave me at birth and calls me by it. They gave me a name to last through my earthly life into eternity. The Lord sanctifies it, as we hear in the words of the Book of Revelation: "I will write on you the name of my God...and my own new name". (Revelation 3:12). God knows me by this name. It is mine. Everyone's name is sacred. How does your name throw light on your identity – is it the name of an ancestor, of a saint, of someone popular at the time you were born?
- In a few moments of silence now, I can listen to God who longs to speak to my heart. God can be found in ordinary life, where we live, in the sounds of people and nature. I can feel His presence in my heart when I quiet my mind and silence my voice. Jesus himself often went to a quiet place to pray in silence. There he found renewed strength to share with everyone he met the fullness of his life with the Father.
- Zechariah and Elizabeth prayed for a long time for a child. Maybe they had given up. Can I remain faithful in prayer, knowing that there is always an answer, and the answer may take time coming or come in a way I don’t expect? As someone once marveled, ‘I got nothing I asked for and everything I needed’.