The tradition began as a way to celebrate with my dad’s family. Each Christmas Eve we would unwrap our presents, so we could celebrate with my mom’s much larger family the next day.
On Christmas morning, my mom’s dad, or Granddaddy, as we called him, would come over early in the morning to check out the gifts Santa left for us. It was a sweet tradition. One of my favorite in a long line of good childhood memories.
The tradition of opening all our gifts on Christmas Eve stuck around long after my grandparent’s passed and long after my dad’s passing. I like that we still do it. In my heart it is a way we make room and remember those who are no longer with us.
But before we were allowed (and are still allowed) to rip open the wrapping paper, we read Luke’s account of events. We start in chapter 2. But lately I’ve had a curiosity about the initial story of Elizabeth and Zechariah.
I’m a bit slow on the draw sometimes, and I’ve wondered why this seemingly random story appears just before the fireworks of Jesus’s birth. This year, it hit me…but first, let’s recap the story in case you aren’t familiar.
Zechariah was a priest who was married to Elizabeth who came from a long line of priests as well. Like any barren woman and family desperate for children, an emptiness abounded. About a year and a half from Jesus’s birth, Zechariah was chosen randomly to serve in the Temple.
Much like the shepherdswere doing their duty the night of Christmas, Zechariah did his.
While he was burning the incense, an angel of the Lord appeared to him. Remember, angels were not angels in the way we think of them today. They were warriors and messengers and this one had a name, Gabriel, and Zechariah was afraid.
While Zechariah was praying prayers for the people, it turns out, he was also praying prayers for his family and the Lord answered.
And just like that – in an instant – God’s silence was broken – not only in the matter of Zechariah’s prayers – but a silence broken in answer to 400 years of God’s people praying.
And maybe that is why Luke recounts Zechariah’s story.
To tell of a silence broken.
The Old Testament ends with the prophets – those who foretold of the coming King. And the New Testament begins with the birth of a new one who would tell the world of the King among them.
And maybe that is what you are waiting for in the season of Advent: for a silence to be broken.
Rest assured, Dear One, that the God who wouldn’t remain silent any longer in Zechariah’s day, will not remain silent for long in yours – even if you feel like your journey and his silence have lasted 400 years.
He is waiting.
For the proper time to speak and to act.
And you can be as sure as the sun rises each day that Immanuel will come to you.
He will come to you in the silence. He will sit by you in the sorrow. He will come to you in the longing. He will come to you in the waiting. He will come to you as he came so long along.