Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC
Sunday, November 27
By Rev. Andy Ferguson
When There are No Words
Read Luke 1:5-23
The Christmas story as told by Luke actually begins before the angel visited Mary to promise that she would bear a child. It began months earlier in the Temple. A country preacher, Zechariah, had been chosen to enter the Holy of Holies at the time of incense – a once in a lifetime moment for him.
Inside he met Gabriel, who came with a promise for Zechariah and all Israel. Zechariah’s response to this wonderful news was a clumsy, “Huh?” This did not sit well with the Angel, so he struck Zechariah unable to speak until his promised child should be born.
Imagine the scene: Zechariah comes out of the Holy of Holies. His eyes are wide but he is unable to speak. He gestures; he shrugs; he points. But no explanation comes out.
Years ago, I was the preacher at Camp Wesley Woods for a communion service. Unfortunately, laryngitis had taken over and my voice was fading fast. I was the only pastor around, and the plan called for Holy Communion. When it was time for the communion liturgy, my voice was gone. What could I do?
With no backup plan in sight, I stepped to the communion table and acted it out – no words. Like Zechariah, I gestured; I shrugged; I pointed. Then, I broke the bread, lifted the cup, and offered it to all who were present.
I have always connected my mime-communion with Zechariah’s silence and gesturing before his long-ago congregation. The Christmas Story began that day without words. The angel’s promise to Zechariah was shared without explanations or fancy prophecies. The best part is that people got it – at least part of it. They understood that God had visited during their hour of prayer. They understood that God was coming close and that great events were unfolding.
This is the message of Christmas in this troubled year 2022. We read plenty of words; the speeches never end. But long ago in events unspoken, the Good News unfolded. God has visited. God is coming close and in God’s coming great events are underway. This is the promise of Christmas.
Hush my chattering, Lord. Teach me to watch for your Christmas coming with my kneeling knees, my outstretched hands, my believing eyes. Amen.