Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Advent: Time for the Loosening of Tongues!

"But the angel said to him, 'Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son...'" Luke 1:13

"And Mary said: 'My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name.'" Luke 1:46-47,49

"So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, 'Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.' And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.  Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child." Luke 2:15-17

Last year I was left speechless -- no, really. I had surgery which left my vocal cords damaged. Within the confines of my hospital room, surrounded by people who understood my situation, it was "no big deal." In a noisy world where chatting online with the insurance rep only gets you so far and does nothing to relieve the frustration your feeling at having your benefits erroneously canceled, it became a big deal very quickly. Try placing your drive-thru order in a "library voice." When I did try to speak, people would beg me to stop. "Don't hurt yourself!" (It didn't hurt.) "Don't get so upset." (I wasn't.) I hated being patronized. In a world where texting, blogging and social media are such an enormous part of our lives; where people with disabilities are making headlines and legislation recognizing their needs improves everyday, you would think there'd be a little more room for someone with a vocal impairment. But speech is -- even in the twenty-first century -- much more important than we may realize. 

Saint Francis of Assisi is often (mis)credited with saying: "Preach Jesus, and if necessary, use words." If I was going through the toll booth behind you, and was informed by the toll taker that you had just paid my fare, I would think you were a nice person. If I was watching you help an elderly lady with her groceries, I would think your momma raised you right. Point is, how -- unless you spoke of God's love -- would I know that any of these acts was an outward expression of the change the Gospel has made within your heart? Now, words can come cheap if actions do not lend their support; but unless we define for those to whom we demonstrate the Gospel, exactly what our actions mean, they can appear to have their root in all sorts of good things -- not Our Good Father.

If Zacharias and Elizabeth had begin to notice a change in Elizabeth's physique, or Elizabeth had suddenly developed a craving for chocolate covered gefilte fish, don't you think they would have figured out what was going on? Did the angel really have to make an appearance to tell Zacharias? Elizabeth knew Mary's child was of the Lord; even the baby in her womb knew it. Did Mary need to "get her praise on" right then and there? I'm sure it was much louder than her "library voice." And those ignoble, unclean -- by multiple definitions -- shepherds... They made widely known what they knew of this Child. No Facebook. Not even Morse code. (Hey, lighten up -- my grandmother told me about it.) As they moved about with their flocks they told anyone who'd stand still long enough!

But in the midst of all this talking we find the account of Zacharias' disbelief; it had rendered him dumb. Unable to speak until when? Until credit was humbly restored to Whom credit was due. Until he proclaimed, that which the angel had foretold had come to pass: the time was right, the way was prepared for the arrival of Messiah.

Advent is a time to prepare our hearts; to stop and reflect on a God so mighty He controls the wind and waves, but so gentle and loving He would send His Son to Earth as a helpless, vulnerable babe, that we might be reconciled to Him. Advent is a time to lift our voices in praise, and proclaim His goodness to all. Preach Jesus; let your actions defend your words!

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