“Bless the Lord God of Israel
    because he has come to help and has delivered his people.
 He has raised up a mighty savior for us in his servant David’s house,
     just as he said through the mouths of his holy prophets long ago.
 He has brought salvation from our enemies
    and from the power of all those who hate us.

[Luke 1:67-71 Common English Bible]

Has it ever occurred to you that there is a connection between the homonyms wait and weight?

I believe that none of us – not one – is patient by nature. We don’t like waiting. Therefore, to wait becomes a weight on us.

Some of you will see this as convoluted thinking, or maybe the product of a sleepless, even deranged mind. It was, after all, early in the morning when this idea came to me. I was beginning to feel the pressure of trying to post something this week. Regular readers may have noticed that I have been skipping Tuesdays even though I had pledged to myself to post every Tuesday and Friday.

The selection from Luke (see above) was part of my devotional reading this Friday of the week of Advent 4.

This also happens to be Christmas Eve, and I wanted to stay away from the typical “Christ is born for you” themes which practically everyone who is either reflecting or sermonizing will weigh in on today.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I just didn’t want to merely add to the pile.

But, back to my convoluted thought.

Icon of Zechariah Russian Icon Early 18th Century

This prophecy spoken by the priest Zechariah comes after a nine-month silence which was his punishment for not believing the angel Gabriel, who said that his aged and barren wife, Elizabeth, would give birth to a son.

And this was not just any son but, in the words of Gabriel, “many people will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.”  [Luke 1:14-15 CEB]

Zechariah was incredulous.  He asks the question, “How will I know that this is so?  For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.”  And so for questioning God, Gabriel gave him a sign.

And did he ever?!  He struck Zechariah mute and leaves him to his holy duties in the temple without the power to speak.

And so what we pick up in the story today comes after the birth and the naming of John.  John was an unexpected gift from God, which is what the name John means – “gift of God.”  

When Zechariah agreed that, indeed, this child’s name was “gift,” he could once again speak and bless God. And after nine months of waiting to speak again, Zechariah had plenty to say.

Birth of John the Baptist (Detail) Jacopo Tintoretto, 1518-1594

The gospel writer, Luke, never tells us what was going on in Zechariah’s mind during these nine months of silence. We are left only to wonder. But given the experience we’ve endured these past twenty-or-so months, we can certainly imagine, and even let our imagination run wild.

We, too, have been through a lot.  Zechariah’s wait was only nine months. We have been through nearly two years!

I’m referring, of course, to the havoc the pandemic has wreaked upon us.

To say the weight of waiting has been difficult is the understatement of the century.

It has been painful to recall all the adjustments we’ve had to make in our individual lives.

The weight has been heavy, coming perilously close to tearing apart the fabric of our society.

As faith communities, we have had to endure inconsistencies: the jumbled experience of either worshipping in person, online, or not at all.

I lurk on social media sites. Sometimes I comment, more often I don’t.

I do, however, do a lot of headshaking.

Unlike Zechariah, we haven’t been silent! Sometimes, however, silence might have been the better option.

As we come to the end of this Advent season, we have hopefully been reminded that the weight of waiting is not in vain.

When we celebrate once again the end of waiting, we welcome Christ into our midst.

It is He who is the one who takes the weight of the world on his shoulders. The one who promises that:

“Because of our God’s deep compassion,
     the dawn from heaven will break upon us,
     to give light to those who are sitting in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
        to guide us on the path of peace.”
                                    [Luke 1:78-79 CEB]

May it ever be so for you and me and all the world this Christmas!

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Published by pastorallende

Retired Bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Social justice and immigration reform advocate. Micah 6:8. Fluent in English and Spanish. I enjoy music and sports.

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