My garden has grown silent. The approach of winter leaves little evidence of what had once been a flourishing array of vegetable plants. The shortened days – with the sun hanging low in the sky – do not supply the energy needed for gardening. As I walk around the garden, there are not clear indicators to tell me that there will be a new season. Instead the hope is within me. It is the remembrance of the consistent cycling of the four seasons. Spring will come!
In today’s passage, Zechariah speaks to us out of his period of silence. As a priest, he hoped for a Redeemer. He, along with his community members, longed for a new day – a day that would turn the tables of the empire upside down. But there was little evidence that liberation from the dark night would occur. He and his wife, Elizabeth, weren’t sure that there would even be a next generation in their family lines. Even with a visionary promise from the angel Gabriel, Zechariah did not believe that change would come to their plight. Spring was not in sight.
I imagine the many questions, doubts and hopes that ran through Zechariah’s mind during the nine months of waiting that followed the visionary experience. The silence must have consumed his whole being. But it is clear that hope was an emergent factor during this time of waiting. By the time his son was born, he was ready to act on what had been percolating in his soul. He boldly stepped out and called his son, “John.” Then he spoke the prophetic words that we read today. The new season filled with salvation, forgiveness, dawn, light and peace has come!
for he has looked favourably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty saviour for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.’