Adapted from This Distant Reality
Six months. Six months of waiting, of feeling stuck in limbo, of having no direction to go. Six months of “not” hearing from God, because I’m sure he is speaking, I’m just not recognizing anything he is saying except maybe wait. Six months feels like forever. At least it isn’t 400 years.
400 years is the length of time that the Israelites waited to hear from God. 400 years of recorded silence. 400 years of darkness, with no recorded word, no recorded direction, no hint given except those that had come in the past.
And then in a temple to a priest, named Zachariah, for the first recorded time in 400 years, the Lord speaks through His angel. Zachariah is terrified, astonished, and disbelieving, he laughs (while understandable, not exactly the right response to an angel bringing the first spoken word from God in 400 years). I think I would too, though. Zachariah has spent his whole life waiting. Waiting and praying for a son who seems unlikely to come. Waiting and praying for a messiah; waiting and praying for his people to hear from God.
And God’s first recorded message in 400 years-
“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
God’s first recorded message to his people- a child shall be born, a child who will prepare the way for the Messiah, the Lord. When the angel brings God’s message, he is not only fulfilling Zachariah’s prayers for a child. He is fulfilling his people’s cries for a messiah.
The angel said, “Elizabeth will bear a son… to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” The angel was not only proclaiming the miracle of birth to a barren woman, but was alluding to the much greater miracle. A miracle that was just six months out—another birth, this time the birth of the messiah, the savior of the world.
Since the fall at the dawn of creation, God’s people have been waiting for a Messiah. For 400 years God’s people called out to him and heard nothing but silence. For a lifetime Zachariah and Elizabeth prayed for a child. All of Israel’s history, all of this story, everything has been about waiting, waiting sometimes with the promise of words spoken, but sometimes waiting in silence. Waiting for the message that this angel is alluding to, the message that this angel will in six short months speak to a young girl named Mary.
In all of this waiting and seeking God, he was silent. And yet in the silence he wasn’t absent.
“God advents in our hearts every day – and surprisingly and willingly comes to us in the messy, scandalous, impoverished and difficult places of our lives, just like that first Christmas. That is the mystery. That is the gift. That is our invitation… to let God come to us as we are, not as we think we should be. Waiting is such a necessary part of our human journey… to learn that our own solutions and remedies for procuring the things we want/think we deserve or think will make life easier/better/more manageable, are rarely permanent or truly transformative.”
Gamble-Grant, Paula. A Wild and Precious Advent
So, this advent, and in this life as we wait and prepare for either our homecoming or the return of the Messiah take a moment to be still, to “let advent find you.” Because on our own no amount of seeking and searching will end our waiting. God in his own perfect time, whether that be 2,000 years, 400 years, 50 years, or six months will come to us. The word advent means the arrival of a notable person or event- the coming. So in our waiting let us open ourselves to the arrival of Christ into this world, and let God find us, come to us, just as he did on the first Christmas.