Relationships during Christmas can be challenging. Your Christmas gift of silence may be the best gift you give this year to people.
Hello everyone and welcome to episode 80. It’s the first of our December episodes about what we can learn from the relationships we see in the Christmas story that can help us in our own relationships this Christmas. And please be sure to stick around to the end for a rare musical treat I will share with you.
I’ll start by telling you about a group people I met who don’t enjoy Christmas as much as the rest of us. Any idea who this group could be?
It was a group of pastors I used to work with, of all people. The part of Christmas they didn’t enjoy was preaching sermons about it. They loved preaching about other things, but sermons about Christmas were challenging because what can you say that hasn’t already been said.
My suggestion: talk about relationships. The Christmas story has always been about relationships.
I’ll give you an example.
The back story to the Christmas story
Like every good story, the story of Jesus’ birth has a back story, which we find in the first 23 verses of the Gospel of Luke. In these verses I count at least 9 different relationships:
- The apostle Luke to Theophilus, the recipient of Luke’s letter
- Zechariah and Elizabeth
- Zechariah and his past, the priestly order of Abijah….his relationship with his past
- Luke to the truth
- Zechariah and the angel Gabriel
- Gabriel and God
- Zechariah and his relationship with God
- Zechariah and his neighborhood, his circle of relationships. His community
- Elizabeth and God
All of these relationships are interesting, but at our staff meeting Carol said I needed to focus on just one of them today. She suggested I should go with with number 7 on the the list, Zechariah and his relationship with God. So that’s what I’ll do.
The Christmas story starts with a man named Zechariah.
So who exactly was this Zechariah character, and what can we learn from him?
- He was a Jewish priest
- Very Godly man, very religious, consider to be righteous in God’s eyes as he was careful to obey all the Lord’s commandments
- Was well thought of in his community and religious circle
- Married to a woman named Elizabeth who could not conceive a child
- A key element to this story is that he and Elizabeth were very old
- The angel Gabriel appears to him one day. And he’s terrified. But Gabriel tells him “Don’t be Afraid” and that God has answered his prayer and Elizabeth will have a baby, and he’s to be called John. The angel goes on to tell him what a great man his son will be and that he will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord.
- “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is well along in years.” Big Mistake.
- Gabriel then, as God’s messenger, says, because you don’t believe me, you don’t believe God and because of that “you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born.”
- 9 months of being mute. It was a Christmas gift of Silence from Gabriel to Zechariah
- Elizabeth soon became pregnant and went into seclusion for 5 months. She says “How kind the Lord is! He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”
We then have the story of Elizabeth’s relationship with Mary, which we will pick up with next week, in episode 81. We’ll skip this for now and move ahead 9 months when Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son is born.
The silence ends
- Gabriel's Christmas gift of silence ends 8 days AFTER the baby is born when Zechariah writes on a writing tablet, “His name is John!”
- I wonder what Zechariah was thinking for those 8 days because Gabriel said he’d be mute “until the child is born.” Was he impatient?
- The first words Zechariah spoke were words of praise to God
- vs. 66 “Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and ask, ‘What will this child turn out to be?’” It was a community event
- The rest of the chapter Zechariah praises God, foretells the coming of the savior, and that his son John, vs. 76, “And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the most high.” What tenderness coming out of Zechariah’s mouth!
How are we to make sense of this story of Zechariah’s relationship with God
Zechariah has a hard time believing that God is going to perform a miracle through his wife giving birth to a son, much later in their life. Many of us would have a hard time believing God, too. Why is he penalized for what seems a normal response?
I wonder if it it’s because:
- He’s a religious leader and more is expected from leaders. People in the community are watching how he lives out his faith, and to question God like he did sends the wrong message
- Not what he said, but HOW he said it.
- He placed more value on “the science” than his trust in God’s word to him. We’re all hearing “trust the science” during the 2020 pandemic
The penalty for Zechariah in asking his question seems odd. I wonder why this penalty of 9 months of silence.
Was Zechariah too much of a talker? Some religious and academic types feel the need to weigh in on everything. They don’t.
Maybe God wanted Zechariah to spend more time reflecting on his relationship with Him.
Perhaps God wanted him to be a better listener. To be a better observer of people and the world around him, and less of a commentator or teacher.
I’m guessing that the 9 months of not talking created a spiritual and relational growth spurt in Zechariah. He defied the community norms by naming his son, “John” as Gabriel had said, rather than after someone in the family.
If you forget everything else, here’s the one thing I hope you remember from today’s episode
Trust God and what he says, even when it defies logic, human wisdom, and experience.
What we can all do in response to today’s program?
Take more time to be silent; to reflect. It can be a Christmas gift of silence you give to yourself
Restrain our desire to comment on everything that happens around us. Hold more of our opinions to ourself. Have fewer opinions altogether.
Be more of an observer and listener and less than a commentator. It can be a Christmas present of silence you give to others.
Become more of a learner and less of a teacher.
Trust God, even when the odds are stacked against you, like they were for Zechariah and Elizabeth
Embrace silence. Use it to reflect on God and what He thinks, and what he is up to. Just like Zechariah’s community did in Luke 1:66. Your Christmas gift of silence may be the best gift you give this year to family and friends.
As always, another thing you could do is let me and your fellow listeners know what resonated with you about today’s episode. You can share your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of the show notes. Or you can send them to me in an email to email@example.com.
A related resource that might interest you
Episode 20, Relating with People Who Talk too Much
I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show, to both reflect and to act. So that you will find the joy God intends for you through your relationships. Because after all, You Were Made for This.
Our Relationship Quote of the Week
Don't speak unless you can improve upon the silence. ~ Spanish proverb
As we close today’s show, I want to play for you a cut from a CD I got from Carol at last year’s office Christmas party. We all drew names, I got Rex, our beloved doorman to our building. And Carol got me. She knew I am a huge Marcel Marceau fan, so for my gift she got me his Christmas CD, “Marcel Sings Classic Christmas Carols.” Listen in to his rendition of “Silent Night.” It’s one of my favorites.
That’s all for today. See you next week. Goodbye for now.
You Were Made for This is sponsored by Caring for Others, a missionary care ministry. We depend upon the generosity of donors to pay our bills. If you'd like to support what we do with a secure tax-deductible donation, please click here. We'd be so grateful if you did.