Luke 1:19-22. The angel said to him, “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 appointed time.” Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
As much as I tried to deny it, I knew something wasn’t right. It was the week of Christmas Eve—a busy time when you work at a church—and I just didn’t have time for this. It began with a scratch in my throat, then a dry cough, then a wheeze, and pretty soon I could feel the junk in my chest. Pushing through, praying and hoping it would go away, I awoke one morning to find that only squeaks would come out of my mouth; I had lost my voice. THAT was what pushed me over the edge to see a doctor; not being able to talk was miserable! I soon found myself in the Patient First waiting room along with a dozen or so coughing and wheezing and voiceless other people, and finally I received some antibiotics so I could be on the mend.
It can be excruciatingly painful when you can’t say something.
Most of us have experienced a time when we were unable to speak for one reason or another-- and boy, is it hard! We rely on our voices so much that it’s difficult to go without saying something for any length of time. In some ways we can sympathize how Zechariah was feeling after he encountered an angel in the temple who told him both the news that his elderly wife would have a kid and that he would lose his voice for the 9-month duration of her pregnancy. Zechariah is among the “B-List” characters we usually skip over in the story of Christmas, but his story speaks volumes—though Zechariah himself does not. Some say Zechariah became speechless because he doubted God. Others say it was an answer to Elisabeth and every pregnant woman’s prayer. But I think perhaps Zechariah emerged speechless from the Temple that day oh so long ago for a completely different reason.
Whether quite literally or figuratively, the times in life when we are sent away speechless are prime periods that God has prepared for us to listen. The times when we don’t quite know what to say, when we are surprised or shocked, when we desire to give our $0.02 but feel a pull to hold back, are often the times God wants to show us something. These are the times our ears are tuned to his voice. Perhaps these are also the times when God himself needs to speak to other people first, without us getting in the way.
Where has God arranged for you to be speechless right now?
Are you listening?