“It so happened that as Zachariah was carrying out his priestly duties before God, working the shift assigned to his regiment, it came his one turn in life to enter the sanctuary of God and burn incense. The congregation was gathered and praying outside the Temple at the hour of the incense offering. Unannounced, an angel of God appeared just to the right of the altar of incense. Zachariah was paralyzed in fear.
But the angel reassured him, “Don’t fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John. You’re going to leap like a gazelle for joy, and not only you—many will delight in his birth. He’ll achieve great stature with God. “He’ll drink neither wine nor beer. He’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he leaves his mother’s womb. He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God. He will herald God’s arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened skeptics—he’ll get the people ready for God.”
Zachariah said to the angel, “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.”
But the angel said, “I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won’t believe me, you’ll be unable to say a word until the day of your son’s birth. Every word I’ve spoken to you will come true on time—God’s time.”
(Luke 1: 8-20, MSG, emphasis mine)
Did you catch it? The reason Zachariah was lighting incense in the sanctuary? The Message translation says it was his “one turn in life.” A once in a lifetime opportunity to kneel before the alter of God in the sanctuary and light incense. God took Zechariah’s one turn and turned it into a life changing moment. One that he wasn’t even able to speak of or explain, an announcement that we read in rush as we flip pages to get to Christ’s birth during the Advent season. Zechariah shows up. He receives unbelievable news. He’s given no timeline other than “on time – God’s time.” And he has to find a way to explain it all without words. Unbelief silenced and the unimaginable revealed.
When anything extraordinary happens in life, don’t we want to go yell it from the mountain tops? And in the telling, don’t we sometimes forget to give credit where it belongs and start thinking of all the ways that we made “this” happen? We either spend our time planning for the event or forgetting, once it’s happened, about the waiting. It’s in those moments of waiting on God that we lean most deeply into the strong and capable arms of a God who knows exactly when, where, and how our “once in a lifetime” moment will occur.
This Christmas season, would our expectations and experiences be different if we just chose to show up? Instead of trying to plan and schedule and control and avoid the waiting on and for God, what if we were simply present during the presents? Coming with quiet hearts and lips, to seek the extraordinary in the ordinary moments – the ones where we aren’t doing anything more than showing up and taking our turn. To settle into the waiting as we count down the days to Christmas, letting go of creating our “once in a lifetime” moments and resting in the perfection of the Creator’s timing. This Christmas season, may our unbelief be silenced as we wait expectantly for God.
And then, in God’s perfect timing, we’ll shout what God has faithfully done in our lives from the mountain tops.