‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you… 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.’ Luke 1:19-20
I can’t help feeling sorry for Zechariah being struck dumb for not believing the message from Gabriel. As old and experienced as he is, Zechariah is as troubled and fearful as Mary, by the visit of the angel. Well who wouldn’t be? Suddenly a strange being appears beside you – enough to give an old man a heart attack! The message to Zechariah is as laughable as that given to Abraham about the birth of Isaac; and he fell on his face laughing before God when he heard they would have a baby. The description of the prophesied baby’s life is that of a prophet in keeping with those of the Old Testament; and his purpose was to prepare the way for the Messiah and turn the hearts of the nation back to God. Zechariah picks up the themes of redemption, salvation, deliverance and covenant faithfulness in his song after the birth of John. They are all descriptions of the Messiah to be born, and then he talks about John’s role: preparation of the people. If you haven’t thought about it, I encourage you to use the run up to Christmas to draw close to God again and reflect on the themes of both Mary’s and Zechariah’s songs.